A hydrodynamically optimized nano-electrospray ionization source and vacuum interface†
The coupling of atmospheric pressure ionization (API) sources like electrospray ionization (ESI) to vacuum based applications like mass spectrometry (MS) or ion beam deposition (IBD) is done by differential pumping, starting with a capillary or pinhole inlet. Because of its low ion transfer efficiency the inlet represents a major bottleneck for these applications. Here we present a nano-ESI vacuum interface optimized to exploit the hydrodynamic drag of the background gas for collimation and the reduction of space charge repulsion. Up to a space charge limit of 40 nA we observe 100% current transmission through a capillary with an inlet and show by MS and IBD experiments that the transmitted ion beams are well defined and free of additional contamination compared to a conventional interface. Based on computational fluid dynamics modelling and ion transport simulations, we show how the specific shape enhances the collimation of the ion cloud. Mass selected ion currents in the nanoampere range available further downstream in high vacuum open many perspectives for the efficient use of electrospray ion beam deposition (ES-IBD) as a surface coating method.