Small-molecule analysis with silicon-nanoparticle-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry.Anal Chem. 2007 Jan 15; 79(2):434-44.AC
Silicon nanopowder (5-50 nm) was applied as a matrix for the analysis of small molecules in laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry. In contrast with conventional matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) time-of-flight mass spectrometry, the matrix background interference in the low mass range was significantly reduced. Effects of the particle size and sample preparation procedures on the background mass spectra and the analyte signal intensity have been investigated, and an optimized powder and sample preparation protocol was established. Several surface characterization tools have been applied as well. Both positive mode and negative mode laser desorption/ionization have been applied to different analytes including drugs, peptides, pesticides, acids, and others. Detection limits down to the low femtomole per microliter levels were achieved for propafenone and verapamil drugs. The method developed was found relatively tolerant to salt contamination, which allowed the direct analysis of morphine and propaphenone in untreated urine and triazine herbicides in a soil extract. The new silicon-nanoparticle-assisted laser desorption ionization method was found to be highly selective, which may be due to analyte-dependent precharging in solution, prior to vacuum laser desorption. Some aspects of the charge-transfer mechanism have been studied and discussed. In comparison with standard MALDI matrixes, the silicon nanopowder requires much lower laser fluence (contributing to a reduced background) has much better surface homogeneity, and is more tolerant to salt interference, which makes it an easily applicable practical tool at a potentially low cost.