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Although laser desorption mass spectrometry was introduced in the 1960s, the potential of laser mass spectrometry was not realised until the introduction of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation (MALDI) in the 1980s. The technique relies on light-absorbing compounds called matrices that are co-crystallised with the analyte to achieve high ionisation and desorption efficiencies. MALDI offers a lot of advantages and is an indispensable tool in macromolecule analysis. However, the presence of the matrix also produces a high chemical background in the region below m/z 700 in the mass spectrum. Surface-assisted laser desorption/ionisation (SALDI) substitutes the chemical matrix of MALDI for an active surface, which means that matrix interference can be eliminated. SALDI mass spectrometry has evolved in recent years into a technique with great potential to provide insight into many of the challenges faced in modern research, including the growing interest in "omics" and the demands of pharmaceutical science. A great variety of materials have been reported to work in SALDI. Examples include a number of nanomaterials and surfaces. The unique properties of nanomaterials greatly facilitate analyte desorption and ionisation. This article reviews recent advances made in relation to carbon- and semiconductor-based SALDI strategies. Examples of their environmental, chemical and biomedical applications are discussed with the aim of highlighting progression in the field and the robustness of the technique, as well as to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of individual approaches. In addition, this article describes the physical and chemical processes involved in SALDI and explains how the unique physical and electronic properties of nanostructured surfaces allow them to substitute for the matrix in energy transfer processes.

Original publication




Journal article


Anal Bioanal Chem

Publication Date





2597 - 2622


Animals, Biomedical Research, Humans, Nanostructures, Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization