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Nanotip Ambient Ionization Mass Spectrometry

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journal contribution
posted on 18.04.2016, 00:00 by Zhenpeng Zhou, Jae Kyoo Lee, Samuel C. Kim, Richard N. Zare
A method called nanotip ambient ionization mass spectrometry (NAIMS) is described, which applies high voltage between a tungsten nanotip and a metal plate to generate a plasma in which ionized analytes on the surface of the metal plate are directed to the inlet and analyzed by a mass spectrometer. The dependence of signal intensity is investigated as a function of the tip-to-plate distance, the tip size, the voltage applied at the tip, and the current. These parameters are separately optimized to achieve sensitivity or high spatial resolution. A partially observable Markov decision process is used to achieve a stabilized plasma as well as high ionization efficiency. As a proof of concept, the NAIMS technique has been applied to phenanthrene and caffeine samples for which the limits of detection were determined to be 0.14 fmol for phenanthrene and 4 amol for caffeine and to a printed caffeine pattern for which a spatial resolution of 8 ± 2 μm, and the best resolution of 5 μm, was demonstrated. The limitations of NAIMS are also discussed.