Charge competition and the linear dynamic range of detection in electrospray ionization mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2004 Oct;15(10):1416-1423. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2004.04.034.


An experimental investigation and theoretical analysis are reported on charge competition in electrospray ionization (ESI) and its effects on the linear dynamic range of ESI mass spectrometric (MS) measurements. The experiments confirmed the expected increase of MS sensitivities as the ESI flow rate decreases. However, different compounds show somewhat different mass spectral peak intensities even at the lowest flow rates, at the same concentration and electrospray operating conditions. MS response for each compound solution shows good linearity at lower concentrations and levels off at high concentration, consistent with analyte "saturation" in the ESI process. The extent of charge competition leading to saturation in the ESI process is consistent with the relative magnitude of excess charge in the electrospray compared to the total number of analyte molecules in the solution. This ESI capacity model allows one to predict the sample concentration limits for charge competition and the on-set of ionization suppression effects, as well as the linear dynamic range for ESI-MS. The implications for quantitative MS analysis and possibilities for effectively extending the dynamic range of ESI measurements are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Caffeine / chemistry
  • Models, Chemical
  • Reserpine / analysis
  • Reserpine / chemistry
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization* / instrumentation
  • Static Electricity


  • Caffeine
  • Reserpine