Infrared matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (IR-MALDI) of the polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, and dibenz[a,h]anthracene was performed using a 10.6-µm CO2 laser and a liquid matrix. Sulfolane (tetrahydrothiophene 1,1-dioxide) was found to be an effective matrix for PAH ionization: mass spectra obtained with a sulfolane matrix contain an intense molecular ion peak; interference from PAH fragment and matrix peaks is negligible in all cases. The main limitation of the sulfolane matrix is sample evaporation after 3 to 5 min in vacuum. This sample lifetime can be increased to between 15 and 30 min using a 2:1 (v/v) mixture of sulfolane and glycerol, but the resulting spectra have greater matrix interference and decreased shot-to-shot signal stability. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.