On the "micro"-scale
Vapors of compounds thermally desorbed from surfaces can be drawn into the ionization region of ESI or APCI sources to be combined with corona discharge or ESI generated ions for mass spectrometric analysis. Thermal desorption probes based on this principle (discussed in a recent article) are also making daily increases in resolution, generating images comparable to imaging MALDI-MS. Exciting times!
On the "nano"-scale
Atmospheric pressure hybrid proximal thermal desorption physical and chemical imaging system couples an atomic force microscope (AFM) with mass spectrometry (MS). This new analytical tool will have broad application for studying systems where enhanced or high spatial resolution (at or below 250 nm) molecular chemical imaging is required.
A combined AFM, nanoscale TD chemical imaging instrument might be to co-register local nanomechanical measurements of topography using AFM with MS-based chemical imaging to correlate features with spectral signatures.