Shock wave model for sputtering biomolecules using massive cluster impacts

John F. Mahoney, Julius Perel, Terry D. Lee, P. A. Martino, Peter Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


A shock wave model is proposed to explain certain features of recently reported spectra obtained by massive duster impact (MCI) mass spectrometry. It is suggested that clusters that impact glycerol matrices with energies/nucleon in the range 0.01 eV/u < E/N < 1.0 eV/u provide an extremely soft method for sputtering intact biomolecules, Compared to the high energy/nucleon characteristic of atomic or molecular ion primary beams (typically < 50 eV/u), massive cluster primary beams possess much lower energies/nucleon, which are insufficient to cause appreciable ionization and radiation damage of matrix material. Moreover, fragmentation products of parent molecular ions are effectively lower. With these benefits, MCI spectra show lower chemical noise background and enhanced signalto-noise ratios. Rankine-Hugoniot analysis of the shock conditions is used to arrive at an estimate of the heat retained in the collision-affected matrix volume after bombardment by a characteristic cluster. For a cluster collision resulting in a 26.8 GPa shock pressure, by analogy with water data, rapid heating of the shocked volume to 1000 °C or more is plausible. In a beam consisting of clusters distributed in size and charge, an estimate is made for the range of cluster sizes over which hyrodynamic shock wave theory applies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-317
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Spectroscopy


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