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Published March 17, 2015 | public
Journal Article Open

Mass Spectrometric Sampling of a Liquid Surface by Nanoliter Droplet Generation from Bursting Bubbles and Focused Acoustic Pulses: Application to Studies of Interfacial Chemistry


The complex chemistry occurring at the interface between liquid and vapor phases contributes significantly to the dynamics and evolution of numerous chemical systems of interest, ranging from damage to the human lung surfactant layer to the aging of atmospheric aerosols. This work presents two methodologies to eject droplets from a liquid water surface and analyze them via mass spectrometry. In bursting bubble ionization (BBI), droplet ejection is achieved via the formation of a jet following bubble rupture at the surface of a liquid to yield 250 μm diameter droplets (10 nL volume). In interfacial sampling by an acoustic transducer (ISAT), droplets are produced by focusing pulsed piezoelectric transducer-generated acoustic waves at the surface of a liquid, resulting in the ejection of droplets of 100 μm in diameter (500 pL volume). In both experimental methodologies, ejected droplets are aspirated into the inlet of the mass spectrometer, resulting in the facile formation of gas-phase ions. We demonstrate the ability of this technique to readily generate spectra of surface-active analytes, and we compare the spectra to those obtained by electrospray ionization. Charge measurements indicate that the ejected droplets are near-neutral (<0.1% of the Rayleigh limit), suggesting that gas-phase ion generation occurs in the heated transfer capillary of the instrument in a mechanism similar to thermospray or sonic spray ionization. Finally, we present the oxidation of oleic acid by ozone as an initial demonstration of the ability of ISAT-MS to monitor heterogeneous chemistry occurring at a planar water/air interface.

Additional Information

© 2015 American Chemical Society. Received: December 2, 2014; Accepted: February 20, 2015; Published: February 20, 2015. D.A.T. acknowledges Wilton Mui for his assistance in Gilibrator use and calculation of droplet lifetimes and Ronald L. Grimm for helpful discussions on droplet charge measurement. B.G. was supported in this work by GIST through the Caltech-GIST SURF Exchange Program. This work was supported by the Beckman Institute at Caltech.

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Supplemental Material - ac504494t_si_001.pdf


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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023