Chemically etched open tubular and monolithic emitters for nanoelectrospray ionization mass spectrometry

Anal Chem. 2006 Nov 15;78(22):7796-801. doi: 10.1021/ac061133r.


We have developed a new procedure for fabricating fused-silica emitters for electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) in which the end of a bare fused-silica capillary is immersed into aqueous hydrofluoric acid, and water is pumped through the capillary to prevent etching of the interior. Surface tension causes the etchant to climb the capillary exterior, and the etch rate in the resulting meniscus decreases as a function of distance from the bulk solution. Etching continues until the silica touching the hydrofluoric acid reservoir is completely removed, essentially stopping the etch process. The resulting emitters have no internal taper, making them much less prone to clogging compared to, e.g., pulled emitters. The high aspect ratios and extremely thin walls at the orifice facilitate very low flow rate operation; stable ESI-MS signals were obtained for model analytes from 5-microm-diameter emitters at a flow rate of 5 nL/min with a high degree of interemitter reproducibility. In extensive evaluation, the etched emitters were found to enable approximately four times as many LC-MS analyses of proteomic samples before failing compared with conventional pulled emitters. The fabrication procedure was also employed to taper the ends of polymer monolith-containing silica capillaries for use as ESI emitters. In contrast to previous work, the monolithic material protrudes beyond the fused-silica capillaries, improving the monolith-assisted electrospray process.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Hydrofluoric Acid / chemistry
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Porosity
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / instrumentation
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Surface Tension
  • Water / chemistry


  • Proteome
  • Water
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Hydrofluoric Acid