Evaporation and discharge dynamics of highly charged multicomponent droplets generated by electrospray ionization

J Phys Chem A. 2010 Jan 28;114(3):1411-9. doi: 10.1021/jp907162w.


We investigate the Rayleigh discharge and evaporation dynamics of highly charged two-component droplets consisting principally of methanol with 2-methoxyethanol, tert-butanol, or m-nitrobenzyl alcohol. A phase Doppler anemometer (PDA) characterizes droplets generated by electrospray ionization (ESI) according to size, velocity, and charge as they move through a uniform electric field within an ion mobility spectrometer (IMS). Repeated field reversals result in droplet "ping-pong" through the PDA. This generates individual droplet histories of solvent evaporation behavior and the dynamics of charge loss to progeny droplets during Rayleigh discharge events. On average, methanol droplets discharge at 127% their Rayleigh limit of charge, q(R), and release 25% of the net charge. Charge loss from methanol/2-methoxyethanol droplets behaves similarly to pure 2-methoxyethanol droplets which release approximately 28% of their net charge. Binary methanol droplets containing up to 50% tert-butanol discharge at a lower percent q(R) than pure methanol and release a greater fraction of their net charge. Mixed 99% methanol/1% m-nitrobenzyl alcohol droplets possess discharge characteristics similar to those of methanol. However, droplets of methanol containing 2% m-nitrobenzyl evaporate down to a fixed size and charge that remains constant with no observable discharges. Quasi-steady-state evaporation models accurately describe observed evaporation phenomena in which methanol/tert-butanol droplets evaporate at a rate similar to that of pure methanol and methanol/2-methoxyethanol droplets evaporate at a rate similar to that of 2-methoxyethanol. We compare these results to previous Rayleigh discharge experiments and discuss the implications for binary solvents in electrospray mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and field-induced droplet ionization mass spectrometry (FIDI-MS).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Benzyl Alcohols / chemistry
  • Ethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Methanol / chemistry
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Surface Tension
  • Thermodynamics*
  • Volatilization
  • tert-Butyl Alcohol / chemistry


  • Benzyl Alcohols
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • methyl cellosolve
  • 3-nitrobenzyl alcohol
  • tert-Butyl Alcohol
  • Methanol