Charged Particle Software Package for designing charged-particle optical systems

Our researchers have developed software which is now established as the gold standard for modelling low-energy charge-particle optics. The Charged Particle Optics (CPO) software has helped customers design and develop products – including a mission-critical instrument for the International Space Station – worth more than £25 million over the past decade.

Electron-optical instruments have become standard equipment in industrial and academic research laboratories all over the world.

Analytic instruments using electrostatic and magnetic fields are widely used in industry and research to probe and analyse a range of samples. To model the behaviour and performance of these fields, researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy developed the ‘Charged Particle Optics’ (CPO) software.

CPO is more accurate than conventional modelling software for low-energy charge-particle optics. It models both magnetic and electrostatic fields, can cope with electrodes of varying shapes and sizes, and enhances the mass resolution of mass spectrometers and the performance of electron lenses.. Consequently, CPO has become the gold standard for modelling charged particle optical instruments.

Members of the University of Manchester formed a spin-off company, Charged Particle Optics Ltd, to sell the software to manufacturers of scientific instruments and national laboratories. These manufacturers use the software to test high throughput analysis instruments prior to manufacture, saving them significant development time and expense.

Examples of CPO applications

  • To determine the shape and size of meshes which optimise ion beam transmission in a new ‘time-of-flight’ (TOF) spectrometer for analysing samples of imported prawns for banned chemicals

  • Simulation of the space charge effects of electron emissions from cathodes to improve the design of electron probe micro-analysers, X-ray photoelectron spectrometers and various ion transmission components within mass spectrometers
  • Simulation of an electron ionizer by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for the design of a prototype gas chromatographic mass spectrometer system used to monitor the concentration of trace, toxic chemical gasses inside the International Space Station

Key facts and figures:

Gold standard

Over 200 benchmark tests have established CPO as the gold standard in microscopy.

Product development

Over the past decade £25 million of products have been developed using CPO software.


Our researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy explored electron optics and its associated instruments.

We developed a 3D technique that uses the Boundary Element method to accurately solve electromagnetic problems. This led to the creation of the Charged Particle Optics (CPO) software package which simulates the motion of charged particles in electrostatic and magnetic fields.

The research team used CPO to:

  • Accurately model electron trajectories to aid the design of electrostatic lenses with low aberrations
  • Account for the effects of Coulomb particle interactions in the design of high-current electrical guns
  • Optimise 3D electron optical devices
  • Invent electron optical devices
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