Electrospray ionization (ESI) is the preferred mode of ion generation for mass analysis of many organic species, as alternative ionization techniques can lead to appreciable analyte fragmentation. For this reason, ESI is an ideal method for the analysis of species within aerosol particles. However, because of their low concentrations (∼10 μg/m3) in most environments, ESI has been applied sparingly in aerosol particle analysis; aerosol mass spectrometers typically employ analyte volatilization followed by electron ionization or chemical ionization, which can lead to a considerable degree of analyte fragmentation. Here, we describe an approach to apply ESI to submicrometer and nanometer scale aerosol particles, which utilizes unipolar ionization to charge particles, electrostatic precipitation to collect particles on the tip of a Tungsten rod, and subsequently, by flowing liquid over the rod, ESI and mass analysis of the species composing collected particles. This technique, which we term electrostatic precipitation-ESI-MS (EP-ESI-MS), is shown to enable analysis of nanogram quantities of collected particles (from aerosol phase concentrations as low as 102 ng m-3) composed of cesium iodide, levoglucosan, and levoglucosan within a carbon nanoparticle matrix. With EP-ESI-MS, the integrated mass spectrometric signals are found to be a monotonic function of the mass concentration of analyte in the aerosol phase. We additionally show that EP-ESI-MS has a dynamic range of close to 5 orders of magnitude in mass, making it suitable for molecular analysis of aerosol particles in laboratory settings with upstream particle size classification, as well as analysis of PM 2.5 particles in ambient air. (Figure Presented).
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© 2015 American Chemical Society.