Secondary Electrospray Ionization of Complex Vapor Mixtures. Theoretical and Experimental Approach
G. Vidal-de-Miguel, A. Herrero
In secondary electrospray ionization (SESI) systems, gaseous analytes exposed to an electrospray plume become ionized after charge is transferred from the charging electrosprayed particles (the charging agent) to the vapor species. Currently available SESI models are valid for simplified systems having only one type of electrosprayed species, which ionizes only one single vapor species, and for the limit of low vapor concentration. More realistic models require considering other effects.
Here we develop a theoretical model that accounts for the effects of high vapor concentration, saturation effects, interferences between different vapor species, and electrosprays producing different types of species from the liquid phase. In spite of the relatively high complexity of the problem, we find simple relations between the different ionic species concentrations that hold independently of the particular ion source configuration. Our model suggests that an ideal SESI system should use highly concentrated charging agents composed preferably of only one dominating species with low mobility. Experimental measurements with a MeOH-H2O-NH3 electrospray and a mixture of fatty acids and lactic acid served to test the theory, which gives good qualitative results. These results also suggest that the SESI ionization mechanism is primarily based on ions rather than on charged droplets.