This study focuses on porous silicon (pSi) fabrication methods and properties for desorption ionization on silicon mass spectrometry (DIOS-MS). PSi was prepared using electrochemical etching of n-type silicon in HF–ethanol solution. Porous areas were defined by a double-sided illumination arrangement: front-side porous areas were masked by a stencil mask, eliminating the need for standard photolithography, and backside illumination was used for the backside ohmic contact. Backside illumination improved the uniformity of the porosified areas. Porosification conditions, surface derivatizations and storage conditions were explored to optimize pSi area, pore size and pore depth. Chemical derivatization of the pSi surfaces improved the DIOS-MS performance providing better ionization efficiency and signal stability with lower laser energy. Droplet spreading and drying patterns on pSi were also examined. Pore sizes of 50–200 nm were found to be optimal for droplet evaporation and pore filling with the sample liquid, as measured by DIOS efficiency. With DIOS, significantly better detection sensitivity was obtained (e.g. 150 fmol for midazolam) than with desorption ionization from a standard MALDI steel plate without matrix addition (30 pmol for midazolam). Also the noise that disturbs the detection of low-molecular weight compounds at m/z < 500 with MALDI could be clearly reduced with DIOS. Low background MS spectra and good detection sensitivity at the 100–150 fmol level for pharmaceutical compounds were achieved with DIOS-MS.
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