Effects of ground loop currents on signal intensities in electrospray mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2004 Dec;15(12):1748-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2004.08.005.


The occurrence of electrochemical processes during the operation of an electrospray ionization (ESI) source is well established. In the positive ion mode, electrons are drawn from the ESI metal capillary to a high voltage power supply. These electrons are the product of charge-balancing oxidation reactions taking place at the liquid/metal interface of the ion source. In a recent study, (Anal. Chem.2001, 73, 4836-4844), our group has shown that the introduction of a ground loop can dramatically enhance the rate of these oxidation processes. Such a ground loop can be introduced by connecting the sample infusion syringe (or the liquid chromatography column, in the case of LC-MS studies) to ground. The magnitude of the ground loop current can be controlled by the electrolyte concentration in the analyte solution, and by the dimensions of the capillary connecting the syringe needle and the ESI source. Using ferrocene as a model system, it is demonstrated that the introduction of such a ground loop can significantly enhance the signal intensity of analytes that form electrochemically ionized species during ESI. However, analytes that form protonated molecular ions, such as reserpine, also show higher signal intensities when a ground loop is introduced into the system. This latter observation is attributed to the occurrence of electrolytic solvent (acetonitrile and/or water) oxidation processes. These reactions generate protons within the ion source, and thus facilitate the formation of [M + nH](n+) ions. Overall, this work provides an example of how the careful control of electrochemical parameters can be exploited to optimize signal intensities in ESI-MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Choline / analysis
  • Electrochemistry / instrumentation*
  • Electrochemistry / methods
  • Ferrous Compounds / analysis
  • Metallocenes
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reserpine / analysis
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / instrumentation*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods


  • Ferrous Compounds
  • Metallocenes
  • Reserpine
  • Choline
  • ferrocene