Characterization of Individual Nanoparticles and Applications of Nanoparticles in Mass Spectrometry



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The chemical characterization of individual nanoparticles (NPs) </= 100 nm in diameter is one of the current frontiers in analytical chemistry. We present here, a methodology for the characterization of individual NPs by obtaining molecular information from single massive cluster impacts. The clusters used in this secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) technique are Au4004+ and C60+. The ionized ejecta from each impact are recorded individually which allows to identify ions emitted from a surface volume of ~10 nm in diameter and 5-10 nm in depth. The mode of analyzing ejecta individually from each single cluster impact gives insight into surface homogeneity, in our case NPs and their immediate surroundings. We show that when the NPs (50 nm Al) are larger than the size of the volume perturbed by the projectile, the secondary ion emission (SI) resembles that of a bulk surface. However, when the NP (5 nm Ag) is of the size range of the volume perturbed by projectile the SI emission is different from that of a bulk surface. As part of this sub-assay volume study, the influence of neighboring NP on the SI emission was examined by using a mixture of different types of NPs (5 nm Au and 5 nm Ag). The methodology of using cluster SIMS via a sequence of stochastic single impacts yield information on the surface coverage of the NPs, as well as the influence of the chemical environment on the type of SI emission. We also present a case of soft landing NPs for laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry. NPs enhance the SI emission in a manner that maintains the integrity of the spatial distribution of molecular species. The results indicate that the application can be extended to imaging mass spectrometry.