The Au(n) cluster probe in secondary ion mass spectrometry: influence of the projectile size and energy on the desorption/ionization rate from biomolecular solids

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2005;19(13):1851-7. doi: 10.1002/rcm.1995.


A Au-Si liquid metal ion source which produces Au(n) clusters over a large range of sizes was used to study the dependence of both the molecular ion desorption yield and the damage cross-section on the size (n = 1 to 400) and on the kinetic energy (E = 10 to 500 keV) of the clusters used to bombard bioorganic surfaces. Three pure peptides with molecular masses between 750 and 1200 Da were used without matrix. [M+H](+) and [M+cation](+) ion emission yields were enhanced by as much as three orders of magnitude when bombarding with Au(400) (4+) instead of monatomic Au(+), yet very little damage was induced in the samples. A 100-fold increase in the molecular ion yield was observed when the incident energy of Au(9) (+) was varied from 10 to 180 keV. Values of emission yields and damage cross-sections are presented as a function of cluster size and energy. The possibility to adjust both cluster size and energy, depending on the application, makes the analysis of biomolecules by secondary ion mass spectrometry an extremely powerful and flexible technique, particularly when combined with orthogonal time-of-flight mass spectrometry that then allows fast measurements using small primary ion beam currents.

MeSH terms

  • Bradykinin / chemistry
  • Dynorphins / chemistry
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Gramicidin / chemistry
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Peptides / chemistry*


  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Peptides
  • Gramicidin
  • Gold
  • Dynorphins
  • Bradykinin