Get access

Isomeric differentiation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons using silver nitrate reactive desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry

Authors


R. N. Zare, Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5080, USA.

E-mail: zare@stanford.edu

Abstract

RATIONALE

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are nonpolar and difficult to detect by desorption electrospray ionization. We present a new detection method based on cationization with silver ions, which has the added advantage of being able to differentiate PAHs with the same mass but different structure.

METHODS

9,10-Diphenylanthracene and triptycene, in addition to four different groups of PAH isomers: (1) anthracene and phenanthrene, (2) pyrene and fluoranthene, (3) benz[a]anthracene, benz[b]anthracene (tetracene), and chrysene (4) benzo[a]pyrene and benzo[k]fluoranthene, were deposited on a paper surface and bombarded with methanol droplets containing silver nitrate. The resulting microdroplets entered a quadruple mass spectrometer for mass analysis.

RESULTS

The mass spectrum shows [PAH]+, [Ag + OH + PAH]+, and [Ag(PAH)n]+ (n = 1, 2) (and [PAH + O2]+ in the case of benz[b]anthracene) ions. PAHs having a bay structure, such as phenanthrene, showed a different tendency to interact with silver ions from those PAHs having a linear arrangement of the fused benzene rings, such as anthracene. The ratios of the [PAH]+ peak intensity to that of [Ag–PAH]+, [Ag + OH + PAH]+, [Ag(PAH)2]+, and [PAH + O2]+ were used to differentiate the PAH isomers sharing the same molecular formula with different structures. For isomeric mixtures the [PAH]+ to [Ag + OH + PAH]+ ratio was found to be the most useful parameter. The uncertainty in the mole fraction of an isomeric mixture was ±0.09, ±0.13, ±0.25, and ±0.1 for phenanthrene-anthracene, fluoranthene-pyrene, benz[a]anthracene-chrysene, and benzo[a]pyrene-benzo[k]fluoranthene, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

A simple method has been developed for the detection of PAHs in desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry based on Ag(I) cationization. The method showed a capability to differentiate PAHs isomers (having the same molecular mass) in isomeric mixture with an uncertainty in the mole fraction of about ±0.1. At high inlet temperature and voltage, this method showed better sensitivity but less ability to differentiate between isomeric species. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary