A system and method utilizes distance-measuring equipment including a laser sensor for controlling the collection instrument-to-surface distance during a sample collection process for use, for example, with mass spectrometric detection. The laser sensor is arranged in a fixed positional relationship with the collection instrument, and a signal is generated by way of the laser sensor which corresponds to the actual distance between the laser sensor and the surface. The actual distance between the laser sensor and the surface is compared to a target distance between the laser sensor and the surface when the collection instrument is arranged at a desired distance from the surface for sample collecting purposes, and adjustments are made, if necessary, so that the actual distance approaches the target distance.
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to UT-Battelle, LLC, and the Government has certain rights to the invention.