The role of physical and chemical properties of Pd nanostructured materials immobilized on inorganic carriers on ion formation in atmospheric pressure laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry

Fundamental parameters influencing the ion-producing efficiency of palladium nanostructures (nanoparticles [Pd-NP], nanoflowers, nanofilms) during laser irradiation were studied in this paper. The nanostructures were immobilized on the surface of different solid inorganic carrier materials (porous and mono-crystalline silicon, anodic porous aluminum oxide, glass and polished steel) by using classical galvanic deposition, electroless local deposition and sputtering. It was the goal of this study to investigate the influence of both the nanoparticular layer as well as the carrier material on ion production for selected analyte molecules. Our experiments demonstrated that the dimensions of the synthesized nanostructures, the thickness of the active layers, surface disorders, thermal conductivity and physically or chemically adsorbed water influenced signal intensities of analyte ions during surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization (SALDI) while no effects such as plasmon resonance, photoelectric effect or catalytic activity were expected to occur. Excellent LDI abilities were seen for Pd-NPs immobilized on steel, while Pd nanoflowers on porous silicon exhibited several disadvantages; viz, strong memory effects, dependency of the analytical signal on amount of physically and chemically adsorbed water inside porous carrier, reduced SALDI activity from unstable connections between Pd and semiconductor material, decrease of the melting point of pure silicon after Pd immobilization and resulting strong laser ablation of metal/semiconductor complex, as well as significantly changed surface morphology after laser irradiation. The analytical performance of Pd-NP/steel was further improved by applying a hydrophobic coating to the steel surface before galvanic deposition. This procedure increased the distance between Pd-NPs, thus reducing thermal stress upon LDI; it simultaneously decreased spot sizes of deposited sample solutions.