Electrospray ionization (ESI) has been invaluable to the mass spectrometric detection of biomolecules, due largely to the sensitivity afforded by the ionization technique. Lower flow rates, e.g. in the nanoelectrospray regime, result in smaller initial electrosprayed droplets, leading to higher ionization efficiency and greater signal. One approach to improving sensitivity without lowering flow rate is to generate multiple electrosprays (MESs) from the same sample, essentially splitting one larger flow into smaller flows in the nanoESI regime. Presented here is a series of novel MES emitters in the form of polycarbonate fibres. Based on microstructured fibre (MSF) technology whereby a set of homogeneous parallel channels are formed in a heat-drawn fibre intended to conduct light, a custom design was fabricated in which 3, 6, 9 and 12 holes were arranged in a radial pattern to prevent inhomogeneities in the electric field. The MSFs have dimensions that are compatible with current standards in nanoESI equipment, and the tip is more compatible with standard MS orifices than other larger multielectrospray emitters. By measuring the spray current provided by the various emitters under the same solvent/voltage/total flow rate conditions, a plot was obtained clearly demonstrating the expected dependence on the square root of the number of holes, i.e. the number of independent electrosprays. With this firm proof of principle using this design/format, further effort is justified in developing similar emitters in alternative materials that better prevent surface wetting and allow greater hole density, ultimately leading to greater signal enhancement. Copyright Â© 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Gibson, G.T.T., R.D. Wright, R.D. Oleschuk
Journal of Mass Spectrometry