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Practical implications of some recent studies in electrospray ionization fundamentals

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Abstract

I.Introduction363
II.The Mechanics of ESI-MS363
III.Analyte Characteristics and Selectivity365
 A.  Charging the Analyte366
   1. Ionization Through Charge Separation366
   2. Adduct Formation366
   3. Ionization Through Gas-Phase Reactions366
   4. Ionization Through Electrochemical Oxidation or Reduction368
 B.  Analyte Surface Activity and Its Effect on ESI Response368
   1. Surface Activity and the Fissioning Process369
   2. Predicting ESI Response from Other Parameters369
 C.  The Role of Analyte pKa and Solvent pH370
 D.  Improving ESI Response Through Derivatization371
IV.The Working Curve and Dynamic Range373
 A.  Detection Limits With ESI373
   1. Background Interferences373
   2. Random Noise374
   3. Ion Transmission and Sensitivity374
 B.  Sources of Signal Saturation at High Concentrations375
   1. Limited Amount of Excess Charge375
   2. Limited Space on Droplet Surfaces375
   3. Suppression and Competition at High Concentrations376
 C.  Improving the Detection Limit and Linear Dynamic Range376
   1. Extending to Higher Concentrations376
   2. Extending to Lower Concentrations376
V.Instrumental Parameters and Stability377
 A.  Current–Voltage Curves377
 B.  Effect of Instrumental Parameters on the Current–Voltage Curve378
 C.  Self-Stabilizing Operation379
 D.  Non-Conductive vs. Conductive Spray Capillaries379
VI.Solution Characteristics380
 A.  The Ideal ESI Solvent380
 B.  Solvent Choice for Analysis in the Positive Ion Mode381
 C.  Solvent Choice for Analysis in the Negative Ion Mode381
 D.  Compatibility Between ESI and Liquid Separation Techniques382
VII.Summary382
VIII.Acknowledgment383
References383

In accomplishing successful electrospray ionization analyses, it is imperative to have an understanding of the effects of variables such as analyte structure, instrumental parameters, and solution composition. Here, we review some fundamental studies of the ESI process that are relevant to these issues. We discuss how analyte chargeability and surface activity are related to ESI response, and how accessible parameters such as nonpolar surface area and reversed phase HPLC retention time can be used to predict relative ESI response. Also presented is a description of how derivitizing agents can be used to maximize or enable ESI response by improving the chargeability or hydrophobicity of ESI analytes. Limiting factors in the ESI calibration curve are discussed. At high concentrations, these factors include droplet surface area and excess charge concentration, whereas at low concentrations ion transmission becomes an issue, and chemical interference can also be limiting. Stable and reproducible non-pneumatic ESI operation depends on the ability to balance a number of parameters, including applied voltage and solution surface tension, flow rate, and conductivity. We discuss how changing these parameters can shift the mode of ESI operation from stable to unstable, and how current–voltage curves can be used to characterize the mode of ESI operation. Finally, the characteristics of the ideal ESI solvent, including surface tension and conductivity requirements, are discussed. Analysis in the positive ion mode can be accomplished with acidified methanol/water solutions, but negative ion mode analysis necessitates special constituents that suppress corona discharge and facilitate the production of stable negative ions. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Mass Spec Rev 20: 362–387, 2001; Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/mas.10008

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