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Issue 4, 2008
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Surface effects and electrochemical cell capacitance in desorption electrospray ionization

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Abstract

Time resolved measurements show that during a desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) experiment, the current initially rises sharply, followed by an exponential decrease to a relatively steady current. When the high voltage on the spray emitter is switched off, the current drops to negative values, suggesting that the direction of current flow in the equivalent DESI circuit is reversed. These data demonstrate that the DESI source behaves as a dc capacitor and that the addition of a surface between the sprayer and the counter electrode in DESI introduces a new electrically active element into the system. The charging and discharging behavior was observed using different surfaces and it could be seen both by making current measurements on a plate at the entrance to the mass spectrometer as well as by measuring ion current in the linear ion trap within the vacuum system of the mass spectrometer. The magnitude of the steady state current obtained without analyte present on the surface is different for different surface materials, and different capacitor time constants of the equivalent RC circuits were calculated for different DESI surfaces. The PTFE surface has by far the greatest time constant and is also able to produce the highest DESI currents. Surface properties play a crucial role in charge transfer during DESI in addition to the effects of the chemical properties of the analyte. It is suggested that surface energy (wettability) is an important factor controlling droplet behavior on the surface. The experimental data are correlated with critical surface tension values of different materials. It is proposed, based on the results presented, that super-hydrophobic materials with extremely high contact angles have the potential to be excellent DESI substrates. It is also demonstrated, using the example of the neurotransmitter dopamine, that the surface charge that develops during a DESI-MS experiment can cause electrochemical oxidation of the analyte.

Graphical abstract: Surface effects and electrochemical cell capacitance in desorption electrospray ionization

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Publication details

The article was received on 15 Nov 2007, accepted on 17 Jan 2008 and first published on 14 Feb 2008


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B717693G
Citation: Analyst, 2008,133, 525-531
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    Surface effects and electrochemical cell capacitance in desorption electrospray ionization

    M. Volný, A. Venter, S. A. Smith, M. Pazzi and R. G. Cooks, Analyst, 2008, 133, 525
    DOI: 10.1039/B717693G

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