Mass spectrometry (MS) is the enabling technology for proteomics and metabolomics. However, dramatic improvements in both sensitivity and throughput are still required to achieve routine MS-based single cell proteomics and metabolomics. We reported the silicon-based monolithic multinozzle emitter array (MEA) and demonstrate its proof-of-principle applications in high-sensitivity and high-throughput nanoelectrospray mass spectrometry. Our MEA consists of 96 identical 10-nozzle emitters in a circular array on a 3 in. silicon chip.
The geometry and configuration of the emitters, the dimension and number of the nozzles, and the micropillar arrays embedded in the main channel can be systematically and precisely controlled during the microfabrication process. Combining electrostatic simulation and experimental testing, we demonstrated that sharpened-end geometry at the stem of the individual multinozzle emitter significantly enhanced the electric fields at its protruding nozzle tips, enabling sequential nanoelectrospray for the high-density emitter array.
We showed that electrospray current of the multinozzle emitter at a given total flow rate was approximately proportional to the square root of the number of its spraying-nozzles, suggesting the capability of high MS sensitivity for multinozzle emitters. Using a conventional Z-spray mass spectrometer, we demonstrated reproducible MS detection of peptides and proteins for serial MEA emitters, achieving sensitivity and stability comparable to the commercial capillary emitters. Our robust silicon-based MEA chip opens up the possibility of a fully integrated microfluidic system for ultrahigh-sensitivity and ultra-high throughput proteomics and metabolomics.
Reference: “Multinozzle Emitter Arrays for Nanoelectrospray Mass Spectrometry,” (2011) Analytical Chemistry, 83(15), 6282-6289.