A Preliminary Report on the Application of the Mass Spectrometer to Problems in the Petroleum Industry
- Herbert Hoover Jr. (Director of Research, United Geophysical Co.) | Harold Washburn (Director of Research, United Geophysical Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Transactions of the AIME
- Publication Date
- December 1941
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 100 - 106
- 1941. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.3.4 Scale
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This paper is in the nature of a rough preliminary report on the progressthat has been made in the application of the mass spectrometer to variousproblems arising in the petroleum industry. A few years ago the authorsconsidered a number of the problems that were arising in the qualitative andquantitative measurement of small amounts of hydrocarbons. The methodsavailable of making analyses by chemical techniques appeared to leave much roomfor improvement. Without going into the reasons at this point, attention wasturned to the possibility of employing physical instead of chemical methods ofaccomplishing the desired results.
A preliminary investigation disclosed that the mass spectrometer presented apossibility of solving many problems which could not easily be accomplished byother methods. Work was begun in developing the necessary apparatus andtechnique. A great deal of encouragement and many valuable suggestions werereceived from Dr. Robert A. Millikan, Dr. W. R. Smythe, and
Dr. W. N. Lacey, of the California Institute of Technology, and from Dr. E. O.Lawrence, who recently received the Nobel Prize, of the University ofCalifornia. The authors particularly wish to acknowledge the very greatwillingness of these outstanding scientists to be helpful in solving many ofthe problems that were involved.
So far as the authors are aware, this was the first application of the massspectrometer to commercial work. The results were considerably better than hadat first been anticipated. Briefly, it is possible to run a qualitative andquantitative analysis of an unknown mixture of hydrocarbon gases, with anaccuracy of better than plus or minus 5 per cent of each of the variousconstituents. An exceedingly high degree of sensitivity has been obtained, anda relatively short time is required to complete an analysis. Furthermore, it isunnecessary to separate a mixture of gases into its various' components inorder to complete the analysis.
The Mass Spectrometer
The mass spectrometer should not be confused in any way with the optical 01grating type of spectrograph now in general use. The operation of the massspectrometer is entirely different in principle and bears practically noresemblance to the optical or grating instruments.
The original conception and development of the mass spectrometer dates from andis generally credited to Aston, of Cambridge, England. An early accomplishmentof his research, about 20 years ago, was the discovery that the inert gas neonwas actually a mixture of two kinds of atoms, one of the atomic weight 20 andthe other of atomic weight 22. These two components occurred mixed in suchproportion as to yield the usual atomic weight of 20.2.
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