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Abstract

A method is described for the rapid identification of biogenic, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by plants, including the analysis of the temperature dependence of those emissions. Direct analysis in real time (DART) enabled ionization of VOCs from stem and leaf of several eucalyptus species including E. cinerea, E. citriodora, E. nicholii and E. sideroxylon. Plant tissues were placed directly in the gap between the DART ionization source skimmer and the capillary inlet of the time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer. Temperature-dependent emission of VOCs was achieved by adjusting the temperature of the helium gas into the DART ionization source at 50, 100, 200 and 300°C, which enabled direct evaporation of compounds, up to the onset of pyrolysis of plant fibres (i.e. cellulose and lignin). Accurate mass measurements facilitated by TOF mass spectrometry provided elemental compositions for the VOCs. A wide range of compounds was detected from simple organic compounds (i.e. methanol and acetone) to a series of monoterpenes (i.e. pinene, camphene, cymene, eucalyptol) common to many plant species, as well as several less abundant sesquiterpenes and flavonoids (i.e. naringenin, spathulenol, eucalyptin) with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. The leaf and stem tissues for all four eucalypt species showed similar compounds. The relative abundances of methanol and ethanol were greater in stem wood than in leaf tissue suggesting that DART could be used to investigate the tissue-specific transport and emissions of VOCs. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.