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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2001 Mar;12(3):343-7.

Physical/chemical separations in the break-up of highly charged droplets from electrosprays.

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  • 1Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington 99352, USA.


Highly-charged droplets, as formed by an electrospray process, are known to undergo asymmetric fission to form smaller droplets. We have observed a chemical and physical separation phenomenon that occurs in the droplet break-up process and is related to a compound's surface activity in solution. Two experimental approaches demonstrated that the smaller satellite droplets and the progeny droplets generated by the spray formation and asymmetric fission processes to be surfactant-enriched. These smaller droplets were also effectively separated from the larger primary and residual droplets because of their smaller inertia and high surface charge density, and a region attributed to the initially formed smaller satellite droplets was found to be strikingly confined in a narrow periphery region of the electrospray. The phenomenon may have utility for chemical separations and have significant implications for the sensitivity and selectivity of electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry.

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