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Classification of the ejection mechanisms of charged macromolecules from liquid droplets

Styliani Consta* and Anatoly Malevanets
Department of Chemistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7
Hosp Sick Children, Mol Struct & Funct Program, Toronto, ON M5G 1X8, Canada
Journal of Chemical Physics, 2013, 044314

The relation between the charge state of a macromolecule and its ejection mechanism from droplets is one of the important questions in electrospray ionization methods. In this article, effects of solvent-solute interaction on the manifestation of the charge induced instability in a droplet are examined. We studied the instabilities in a prototype system of a droplet comprised of charged poly(ethylene glycol) and methanol, acetonitrile, and water solvents. We observed instances of three, previously only conjectured, [S. Consta, J. Phys. Chem. B114, 5263 (Year: 2010)10.1021/jp912119v] mechanisms of macroion ejection. The mechanism of ejection of charged macroion in methanol is reminiscent of “pearl” model in polymer physics. In acetonitrile droplets, the instability manifests through formation of solvent spines around the solvated macroion. In water, we find that the macroion is ejected from the droplet through contiguous extrusion of a part of the chain. The difference in the morphology of the instabilities is attributed to the interplay between forces arising from the macroion solvation energy and the surface energy of the droplet interface. For the contiguous extrusion of a charged macromolecule from a droplet, we demonstrate that the proposed mechanism leads to ejection of the macromolecule from droplets with sizes well below the Rayleigh limit. The ejected macromolecule may hold charge significantly higher than that suggested by prevailing theories. The simulations reveal new mechanisms of macroion evaporation that differ from conventional charge residue model and ion evaporation mechanisms.