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Published January 15, 2000 | public
Journal Article

A Micromachined Chip-Based Electrospray Source for Mass Spectrometry


A micromachining process is described for fabricating a mass spectrometry electrospray source on a silicon chip. The process utilizes polymer (parylene) layers to form a system of chambers, filters, channels, and hollow needle structures (electrospray emitters) that extend more than a millimeter beyond the edge of the silicon substrate. The use of photoresist as the sacrificial layer facilitates the creation of long channels. Access to the channel structures on the chip is through a port etched through the silicon substrate that also serves as a sample reservoir. A reusable chip holder consisting of two plastic plates and an elastomer gasket provides the means to mount the chip in front of the mass spectrometer inlet and make electrical and gas connections. The electrospray emitters have tapered tips with 5 μm × 10 μm rectangular openings. The shape of the tip can be varied depending on the shape of the mask used to protect the parylene structures during the final plasma etch. The parylene emitters are physically robust and require only a high electric field to achieve stable electrospray operation over a period of a few hours. Direct comparisons with conventional glass or fused silica emitters indicated very similar performance with respect to signal strength and stability, spectral quality, and endurance. The automated MS/MS analysis of a mixture of tryptic peptides was no more difficult and yielded nearly identical results as the analysis of the same sample using a conventional nanospray device. This work demonstrates that an efficient electrospray interface to mass spectrometry can be integrated with other on-chip structures and mass-produced using a batch process.

Additional Information

© 2000 American Chemical Society. Received for review August 24, 1999. Accepted October 21, 1999. Publication Date (Web): December 10, 1999. This work was supported in part by grants from the Public Health Services (NIH Grants RR06217, CA3572, and RR01462-01). The authors gratefully acknowledge the excellent work of John Hardy, City of Hope Electron Microscope Facility, in acquiring the SEM pictures.

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