As with most of the most ingenious ideas, the concept of ‘a portable mass spectrometer’ was hatched in a pub, over a few pints, between Dan Smith and some colleagues at the time.
ESS already had the GeneSys series of systems, which themselves were…..genesis insofar as a drastic reduction in footprint of the large, refrigerator sized systems that were on the market. The idea of a portable system that could run on battery power appealed to us, so we decided to go for it.
The idea of a portable mass spectrometer was pretty alien to even us, and the vacuum technology on the market at the time in the late 90’s wasn’t exactly lending itself to such applications.
The only way the first incarnation of the EcoSys was portable was if you happened to be the world’s strongest man. It was pretty much a GeneSys system with a battery pack stuck on the side of it, meaning that you could pretty much ‘take it anywhere’….but not for very long before the battery conked out.
Nonetheless ESS persisted. More trips to the pub visits brought new ideas….lots of them. Then we had the idea of putting the Mass Spec into a lightweight plastic suitcase style box.
A great idea, almost a Eureka moment! Almost… we had to fit a turbo pump, housing, mass spec, associated electronics, and most importantly an oil filled rotary vane pump into a suitcase sized package, keep it light enough to carry around and not lose half the oil from the rotary pump.
I don’t know if someone was listening to us that night, but it was almost as if all our issues were solved in one swoop. The 24V Diaphragm pump was born. With sufficient power to back the turbo pump, the case that we wanted to use was too small to fit the MS electronics in, until the brainwave of putting the electronics on a right angle so that it was in the same plane as the turbo pump came about.
We tried. It fitted. A momentous day for us at ESS. We now had the world’s first portable mass spectrometer, with everything inside running from a 24V supply.
We released it and pretty soon we found we were opening up new application areas, some that we never even knew existed. Since then, it has proven to be our most popular instrument, and we haven’t sat back on its success. There may be expensive imitations out there now, but we have continued to improve the EcoSys in terms of performance, ruggedness, ease of serviceability, inlet technology and connectivity / communications, and identification of unknowns. Now, you can even operate an EcoSys on the other side of the world, or even from your mobile devices.
Today’s EcoSys is packed with features and options, such as a capillary AND membrane inlet with active circulation pump as standard, capillary heaters, car charging / operation capability….the list goes on….and on
We’ve even developed application specific variants of this great little product…such as the EcoCat, which is the world’s first portable system designed specifically for Catalyst applications.
Thankfully….we’ve got a bit older (I’m not going to say wiser) and those visits to the pub are a memory now…… the memories and the stories behind it are good….but nowhere near as good as the product that came out of it…the EcoSys.