An ultra-high-mass time-of-flight mass spectrometer using a cryogenic particle detector as an ion detector with charge discriminating capabilities. Cryogenic detectors have the potential for significantly improving the performance and sensitivity of time-of-flight mass spectrometers, and compared to ion multipliers they exhibit superior sensitivity for high-mass, slow-moving macromolecular ions and can be used as "stop" detectors in time-of-flight applications. In addition, their energy resolving capability can be used to measure the charge state of the ions. Charge discrimination is very valuable in all time-of-flight mass spectrometers. Using a cryogenically-cooled Nb-Al.sub.2 O.sub.3 -Nb superconductor-insulator-superconductor (SIS) tunnel junction (STJ) detector operating at 1.3 K as an ion detector in a time-of-flight mass spectrometer for large biomolecules it was found that the STJ detector has charge discrimination capabilities. Since the cryogenic STJ detector responds to ion energy and does not rely on secondary electron production, as in the conventionally used microchannel plate (MCP) detectors, the cryogenic detector therefore detects large molecular ions with a velocity-independent efficiency approaching 100%.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.