Owlstone product Ultra-FAIMS-hero


Add ion mobility to existing mass spectrometers to provide in-source separation of ions

  • Additional high speed separation stage, orthogonal to both chromatography and mass spectrometry
  • Separate isomeric interferences and reduce chemical noise for mass spectrometry imaging and untargeted omics applications
  • Retrofit to Thermo Scientific instruments
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What is ultraFAIMS?

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ultraFAIMS is an ion mobility spectrometry device, consisting of a miniaturised chip that is mounted between the ionisation source and the mass spectrometer inlet. The ionisation source operates as normal, and ions are then pulled through the ultraFAIMS chip by the gas flow into the mass spectrometer

Its operation is based on field asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry, a form of ion mobility spectrometry analogous to a quadrupole mass analyzer, where electric fields can be applied to selectively filter certain ions through the device.

Read about the theory behind FAIMS technology

  • Highest dispersion fields of commercial FAIMS devices

    Dispersion fields in the ultraFAIMS system reach twice the field strength of previous devices enabling investigations into previously unexplored areas of mobility behaviour.

  • Faster separation

    Low ion residence time and low voltage electronics allow dynamic changing of settings at very high speed.

  • Dynamic range and sensitivity

    ultraFAIMS chips have planar gaps and therefore a homogeneous field, providing a good resolution/sensitivity balance. The use of multiple separation channels avoid the ion current limitations of a single narrow channel, making ultraFAIMS suitable for quantitative analysis.

  • Operational flexibility

    Small size lends itself to extremely high resistance to electrical breakdown; has increased flexibility for using gas mixtures to increase separation power than macro-FAIMS devices. Solvent modifiers can easily be used with ultraFAIMS to explore differential mobility behaviours and enhance peak capacity.

  • Reliability and ease of use

    The chip can easily be removed for cleaning or replacement. Non-FAIMS data can be collected with the ultraFAIMS installed - does not require repeated reconfiguring of mass spectrometer inlet.

Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry: The Next Five Years

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Ion Mobility mass spectrometry The Next Five Years book cover
ultraFAIMS with mass spectrometer

How it works

What differentiates ultraFAIMS from other FAIMS technologies?

The key to the ultraFAIMS difference is the unique chip-based design, which has enabled the analytical gap width to be reduced to 100 µm with a channel depth of  700 µm.

The primary benefit to this reduction in size is the speed of separations that can be acheived.

  • The ion residence time is < 250 μs, ~ 100 times faster than previous FAIMS devices.
  • The lower settling time associated with the low-voltage drive electronics means field settings can be switched more quickly.
ultraFAIMS whitepaper mockup

These factors mean that full FAIMS separation sweeps can be carried out in < 1 second, allowing real time LC-FAIMS-MS analysis, or the fields rapidly stepped through selected values with millisecond response times to allow filtering to be synchronized with multiple reaction monitoring transitions.

Another important benefit of the reduced size is that the voltages needed to produce the higher fields are actually much lower than in macro-scale FAIMS instruments. This means dispersion fields in the ultraFAIMS system reach twice the field strength of previous devices offering a new regime for finding differences in mobility between the high and low-field portions of the cycle.

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UltraFAIMs components


How is ultraFAIMS implemented into existing mass spectrometry-based workflows?

The electric fields applied to selectively filter certain ions through the ultraFAIMS device can be exploited in two ways:

Ion species can be selectively transmitted by operating the ultraFAIMS electric fields at a fixed value, using the ultraFAIMS as a tunable filter.

This makes the ultraFAIMS device ideal for targeted analysis, allowing target ions to be selectively transmitted to the mass spectrometer.

ultraFAIMS allows separation of isobaric steroid ions with increasing compensation field strength – Download Poster

ultraFAIMS is also able to operate in scanning mode, where the compensation field (CF) is dynamically changed at very high speed, producing a spectrum of ions separated on the basis of differential mobility.

CF scanning allows generation of CF spectra, where the abundancy data is plotted against CF. For each compound there will be a peak in the FAIMS spectrum centred on an optimum CF to allow an ion to pass through the device.

Read more about ion mobility spectrometry with UltraFAIMS

We are delighted with the performance of the ultraFAIMS device from Owlstone: The improved signal-to-noise shows great promise for our protein analysis work.

Professor Helen Cooper
University of Birmingham

Owlstone’s chip-based FAIMS system is very straightforward to use and has demonstrated potential for the analysis of small molecules, peptides and proteins. We are particularly excited about its ability to enhance high-throughput mass spectrometry applications by separating target ion responses from isobaric and isomeric ions.

Professor Colin Creaser
Loughborough University

Have a question about using ultraFAIMS in your research?

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Research Case Studies

ultraFAIMS real-world applications

Applications of ultraFAIMS typically fall into one of three categories; (1) to improve mass spectral detection in combination with ambient ionisation methods (2) to speed up analysis by replacing lengthy chromatographic separations with ion mobility separation or (3) as an extra dimension of separation in combination with LC-MS analysis for untargeted omics applications. Some examples of these different types of application can be found on the ultraFAIMS Research Case Studies pages, below.

Browse a comprehensive collection of insightful whitepapers, posters and multimedia

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ultraFAIMS integrates with other Owlstone products and services

Collect breath samples using ReCIVA and analyse using ultraFAIMS-MS for fast, quantitative analysis without lengthy analysis times associated with chromatographic separation.

Photo of ultraFAIMS


ultraFAIMS mass spectrometer compatibility

ultraFAIMS has been interfaced with a range of different Thermo mass spectrometers and ionization sources. The list below shows optimum specification for key source & inlet parameters.

  • Inlet gas flow rate

    Optimal range for standard ultraFAIMS chips is 1-2L/min (lower and higher flow rates are possible, but may require a custom chip design)

  • Operating temperature

    Must be stable for good performance, limited to 150°C at chip region

  • Ionisation source type

    Any atmospheric pressure source should be compatible – for liquid-phase sources such as ESI the interface design must ensure good ion desolvation upstream of the chip

  • Voltages

    Voltages The system is compatible with inlet voltages up to +/-6kV

  • Materials

    Materials present in the source region are gold-plated nickel, Rogers 4350B ceramic, stainless steel 316, PTFE, PEEK and Macor ® ceramic (plus a small amount of solder)

  • Liquid flow rate compatibility

    Tested from 50nl/min to 0.5ml/min

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