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mass spectrometry  


  • Technique that allows the measurement of atomic and molecular masses. Material is vaporised in a vacuum, ionised, and then passed first through a strongly accelerating electric potential and then through a powerful magnetic field. This serves to separate the ions in order of their charge:mass ratio; the ions are detected, commonly by means of an electrometer which measures the force between charges and hence the electric potential. Mass spectrometry is used in the radiometric dating of rocks, and in isotope analysis.


  • Allaby, M. (2008). A Dictionary of Geology and Earth Sciences (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

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