An ion mobility spectrometer (IMS) for the detection of trace gaseous molecular compounds dissolved or suspended in a carrier gas, particularly in ambient air, without preconcentration or the trapping of analyte particles. The IMS of the invention comprises an ionization volume of greater than 5 cm.sup.3 and preferably greater than 100 cm.sup.3. The larger size ionizers of this invention enable analysis of trace (<1 ppb) of sample compounds in the gas phase. To facilitate efficient ion motion through the large volume ionization and reaction regions of the IMS, an electric field gradient can be provided in the ionization region or in both the ionization and reaction regions. The systems can be implemented with radioactive ionization sources, corona discharge ion sources or ions can be formed by photoionization. In specific embodiments, particularly when the sample gas is ambient air, the sample gas is heater prior to entry into the instrument, the instrument is run at temperatures above ambient, and the instrument can be heated by contact with heated sample gas exiting the instrument.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
This invention was made with government support under grant no. DE-AC04-94-AL85000 awarded by the Department of Energy. The government has certain rights in the invention.