The success of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) as a widely employed analytical tool in the biomolecular sciences builds strongly on an effective laser-material interaction that is resulting in a soft co-desorption and ionization of matrix and imbedded biomolecules. To obtain a maximized ion yield for the analyte(s) of interest, in general both wavelength and fluence need to be tuned to match the specific optical absorption profile of the used matrix. However, commonly only lasers with fixed emission wavelengths of either 337 or 355 nm are used for MALDI-MS. Here, we employed a wavelength-tunable dye laser and recorded both the neutral material ejection and the MS ion data in a wide wavelength and fluence range between 280 and 377.5 nm. α-Cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (HCCA), 4-chloro-α-cyanocinnamic acid (ClCCA), α-cyano-2,4-difluorocinnamic acid (DiFCCA), and 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) were investigated as matrices, and several peptides as analytes. Recording of the material ejection was achieved by adopting a photoacoustic approach. Relative ion yields were derived by division of photoacoustic and ion signals. In this way, distinct wavelength/fluence regions can be identified for which maximum ion yields were obtained. For the tested matrices, optimal results were achieved for wavelengths corresponding to areas of high optical absorption of the respective matrix and at fluences about a factor of 2-3 above the matrix- and wavelength-dependent ion detection threshold fluences. The material ejection as probed by the photoacoustic method is excellently fitted by the quasithermal model, while a sigmoidal function allows for an empirical description of the ion signal-fluence relationship.
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