A mass spectrometer determines the mass of multiply charged high molecular weight molecules. This spectrometer utilizes an ion detector which is capable of simultaneously measuring the charge z and transit time of a single ion as it passes through the detector. From this transit time, the velocity of the single ion may then be derived, thus providing the mass-to-charge ratio m/z for a single ion which has been accelerated through a known potential. Given z and m/z, the mass m of the single ion can then be calculated. Electrospray ions with masses in excess of 1 MDa and charge numbers greater than 425 e.sup.- are readily detected. The on-axis single ion detection configuration enables a duty cycle of nearly 100% and extends the practical application of electrospray mass spectrometry to the analysis of very large molecules with relatively inexpensive instrumentation.
This invention was made with U.S. Government support under Contract No. DE-AC03-76SF00098 between the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The U.S. Government may have certain rights in this invention. This application claims benefit of provisional application Ser. No. 60/006884 filed Nov. 17, 1995.