• surfactant;
  • activated carbon;
  • surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization;
  • liquid matrix;
  • p-toluenesulfonic acid


The effect of surface activity in surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization (SALDI) mass spectrometry was examined. Several surfactants, including p-tolunensulfonic acid (PTSA), sodium dodecyl sulfate and alkyltrimethylammonium bromide, were used as analytes or additives in the SALDI matrix to demonstrate the surface activity effect. The experimental results demonstrate that analytes that have good surface activity have good sensitivity. Adding suitable amounts of surfactants to the SALDI matrix can dramatically enhance the sensitivity of analytes lacking surface activity. We propose that the enhancement of analyte signals is due to the ionic interaction between ionic surfactants and analytes because non-ionic surfactant additives in the SALDI matrix do not affect the analyte signals. The detection limit of methylephedrine can be as low as 100 pg in the SALDI analysis of 0.5 M PTSA additive in the SALDI matrix. Although other surfactants can also be used as matrix additives to enhance the analyte signal, they do not improve the ion abundance as much as PTSA does. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.