Fast and user friendly, nanoDESI shows off its ability to transfer fragile molecules

Oct 12, 2010

Like the best movers in town, nanoDESI quickly transports delicate chemicals and proteins to their destination in one piece. Created at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, nanoDESI -- or Nanospray Desorption Electrospray Ionization -- picks up molecules from substrates and transfers them to a mass spectrometer for analysis. Because this technique is very sensitive, scientists obtain detailed data using nanogram-sized samples. nanoDESI graced the September 2010 cover of Analyst.

“We decided to try a new approach,” said Dr. Patrick Roach, who created the method. “In this approach, a liquid touches the sample and picks up for analysis.”

What if you could use smaller samples of rare bacterial proteins or air pollutants, skip the laborious sample preparation process, and still get precise data? With nanoDESI, scientists now can. The sample can be 1000 times smaller than those used in more traditional approaches.

"nanoDESI makes analyzing the organic aerosols involved in atmospheric haze far easier,” said Dr. Alexander Laskin, an aerosol chemist at PNNL.

Now available to others through EMSL, a national scientific user facility, nanoDESI uses a liquid bridge to move the sample from a substrate. The bridge is maintained by pumping the solvent onto the sample and drawing it off the sample using two glass tubes or capillaries.

One capillary pumps a continuous stream of water, alcohol, or other solvent onto the surface. The solvent dissolves the sample. A second capillary transforms the liquid into charged droplets that are pumped into and analyzed in an LTQ-Orbitrap high-resolution .

“The learning curve on this technology is pretty flat,” said Dr. Julia Laskin, a physical chemist at PNNL who led the project. “Our summer interns began running nanoDESI experiments in less than 2 hours.”

The team is planning to use this technique for analysis of a broad range of environmental and biological samples. For example, nanoDESI will be used for analysis of oil samples and imaging of Shewanella oneidensis, a common microbe of interest to cleaning up contaminated nuclear weapons sites.

Explore further: Dolphin 'breathalyzer' could help diagnose animal and ocean health

More information: Roach PJ, J Laskin, and A Laskin. 2010. “Nanospray Desorption Electrospray Ionization: An Ambient Method for Liquid-Extraction Surface Sampling in Mass Spectrometry.” Analyst 135(9):2233-2236.

Related Stories

Separating the Catalysts from the Chaff

Sep 09, 2010

When studying how specific catalysts drive reactions, scientists are often frustrated by the actions of unrelated molecules in the samples. Now, thanks to a device created by a team at Pacific Northwest National ...

Device reveals more about Mars' atmosphere

Oct 12, 2010

Instruments designed by a UT Dallas professor to measure atmospheric components on the surface of Mars have uncovered important clues about the planet’s atmosphere and climate history.

Please Exhale: Quick and Easy Breath Analysis

Nov 10, 2006

When we drink alcohol, its “flag” precedes us, and enjoyment of large amounts of garlic or onion can often be detected by others the next morning. However, our breath does not only betray what we have consumed; some diseases ...

Recommended for you

Towards controlled dislocations

19 hours ago

Crystallographic defects or irregularities (known as dislocations) are often found within crystalline materials. Two main types of dislocation exist: edge and screw type. However, dislocations found in real ...

Chemists tackle battery overcharge problem

Oct 17, 2014

Research from the University of Kentucky Department of Chemistry will help batteries resist overcharging, improving the safety of electronics from cell phones to airplanes.

Surface properties command attention

Oct 17, 2014

Whether working on preventing corrosion for undersea oil fields and nuclear power plants, or for producing electricity from fuel cells or oxygen from electrolyzers for travel to Mars, associate professor ...

User comments : 0