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Advanced Laser Ablation Features Released in TOFpilot 2.10

The newest version of TOFpilot provides new key features with an emphasis on laser ablation. In addition to the laser ablation-specific updates described below, the new TOFpilot version comes with general improvements regarding the user interface and customizable layout. Moreover, performance improvements have been included for the liquid and single-particle modules such as improved and extended data reports.

TOFpilot is the control software for all three models of the icpTOF (S2, R, 2R). The icpTOF is based on the iCAP RQ (Thermo Scientific), and TOFpilot has full control over both the iCAP front-end and the TOF mass analyzer. TOFpilot greatly simplifies the workflow for the user by integrating control of the icpTOF with various sample introduction systems, such as different laser ablation systems (e.g., Teledyne CETAC and Elemental Scientific Lasers) and autosamplers (e.g., Teledyne, ESI). TOFpilot operates on a module-basis which allows the user to set up different workflow sequences, including plasma startup, instrument tuning (manual or automated), liquid solution analysis, single particle and single cell analysis, and laser ablation analyses (including imaging with real-time display.

Key New Features

  • Ion optics and detector autotuning for laser ablation
  • Automatic trigger timing adjustment for laser ablation
  • Laser image export / data export
  • Stand-alone Laser Image Viewer
  • Performance improvements to liquid and single particle workflows
  • Improved and extended data reports
  • Improved user interface and customizable layout
Screenshot of the icpTOF control software TOFpilot (version 2.10). TOFpilot has full hardware control over the iCAP front-end and the TOF analyzer and is compatible with different sample introduction systems (e.g., laser ablation systems and autosamplers).

Ion Optics and Detector Autotuning for Laser Ablation

Tuning the instrument is part of everyday laboratory operation and fundamental to obtaining best results. Previously, autotuning of the icpTOF was only provided in solution mode. Now, TOFpilot also allows for autotuning of the ion optics (iCAP front-end) and of the TOF detector in laser ablation mode, e.g., while ablating a line on a certified reference material such as the NIST SRM glasses.

Screenshot of the ion optics autotuning module in laser ablation mode in TOFpilot v2.10. Here, the signal of 55Mn is optimized by varying the focus lens.

Automatic Trigger Timing Adjustment for Laser Ablation

Fast spot-resolved laser ablation imaging relies on triggered acquisition. This means that a trigger signal is sent from the laser system with each laser pulse (or set of pulses) which then starts acquisition at the icpTOF. For this, the aerosol transport time from the laser ablation cell into the mass spectrometer needs to be exactly known. This delay time can now be determined automatically.

Screenshot of the autotuning module for adjusting the laser trigger timing. While observing certain mass channels (here 27Al) the trigger offset is automatically optimized to enable fast, spot-resolved laser ablation imaging.

Standalone Laser Image Viewer

Laser ablation images can be viewed within TOFpilot in real-time, and different isotope channels and color schemes can be selected. For a more rigorous investigation of completed laser ablation images, and offline viewing on other workstations, a standalone “Laser Image Viewer” is provided with the newest TOFpilot version.

Screenshot of the TOFpilot Laser Image Viewer. This standalone feature can be used offline to inspect the acquired image in different mass channels across the entire mass spectrum. Different color palettes, gamma, and offset can be chosen to highlight different features in the image.

Laser Image Export / Data Export

Once a laser ablation image is acquired it can be saved and exported in different image file formats, time-resolved and coordinated csv files, or as csv data matrices.