Real-Time Size Discrimination and Elemental Analysis of Gold Nanoparticles using ES-DMA coupled to ICP-MS
Sherrie R. Elzey, De-Hao D. Tsai, Lee L. Yu, Michael R. Winchester, Michael E. Kelley, Vincent A. Hackley
We report the development of a hyphenated instrument with the capacity to quantitatively characterize aqueous suspended gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) based on a combination of gas-phase size separation, particle counting, and elemental analysis. A customized electrospray-differential mobility analyzer (ES-DMA) was used to achieve real-time upstream size discrimination. A condensation particle counter (CPC) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) were employed as downstream detectors, providing information on number density and elemental composition, respectively, of aerosolized AuNPs versus the upstream size selected by ES-DMA. A gas-exchange device was designed and optimized to improve the conversion of air flow (from the electrospray) to argon flow required to sustain the ICP-MS plasma, the key compatibility issue for instrumental hyphenation. Our work provides the proof of concept and a working prototype for utilizing this construct to successfully measure (1) number-based and mass-based distributions; (2) elemental compositions of nanoparticles classified by size, where the size classification and elemental analysis are performed within a single experiment; (3) particle concentrations in both solution (before size discrimination) and aerosol (after size discrimination) phases; (4) the number of atoms per nanoparticle or the nanoparticle density.