A heavy ion generator is used with a plasma desorption mass spectrometer to provide an appropriate neutron flux in the direction of a fissionable material in order to desorb and ionize large molecules from the material for mass analysis. The heavy ion generator comprises a fissionable material having a high n,f reaction cross section. The heavy ion generator also comprises a pulsed neutron generator that is used to bombard the fissionable material with pulses of neutrons, thereby causing heavy ions to be emitted from the fissionable material. These heavy ions impinge on a material, thereby causing ions to desorb off that material. The ions desorbed off the material pass through a time-of-flight mass analyzer, wherein ions can be measured with masses greater than 25,000 amu.