Molecular Ionization from Carbon Nanotube Paper Spray

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2014-COOK-66769
Mass spectrometry is a critical tool that contributes to public health and safety, as well as a multitude of research endeavors, by identifying molecules as diverse as pesticides, toxins, drugs, and biomarkers implicated in human health. Ionization of sample molecules is critical to effective chemical analysis by mass spectrometry. Current ionization technologies often require large, highly sophisticated hardware. In addition, spectra may be compromised by ionization methods that create a variety of ions including fragmented molecules.

Researchers at Purdue University, in collaboration with Professor N. Pradeep at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, have developed a method of ionization via a carbon nanotube impregnated surface that provides significant advantages to current methods. Samples may be collected by simply wiping the surface across the sample. Ionization is induced by a very small electrical potential. The resulting ionization is gentle on the sample, producing single ion species with no fragment ions. This method has been used to effectively identify pesticides, antibiotics, and amino acids. The small size, simplicity, and effective ionization of this method could easily be incorporated into new spectrometers more suited to portable use.

Advantages:
-Approximately 1,000 times lower voltage necessary compared to similar ionization methods
-Gentle to samples, resulting in less complex spectra
-Small, simple, inexpensive design

Potential Applications:
-Mass spectrometry
-Chemical analysis/engineering
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