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Evaluating agarwood products for 2-(2-phenylethyl)chromones using direct analysis in real time time-of-flight mass spectrometry


E. Espinoza, National Fish & Wildlife Forensic Lab, 1490 E. Main St, Ashland, OR 97520, USA.




Agarwood is the resinous material harvested from threatened Aquilaria species. We investigated how many protonated 2-(2-phenylethyl)chromone ions were sufficient to make an accurate identification of agarwood. Analysis of 125 reference samples was carried out by direct analysis in real time time-of-flight mass spectrometry (DART-TOFMS). The identification criteria developed were applied to commercial samples.


We developed a technique that uses DART-TOFMS to detect 2-(2-phenylethyl)chromones. Additionally, we developed a set of criteria to infer the presence of Aquilaria in commercial samples of wood chips, sawdust, incense and liquids. Additionally, we examined other fragrant woods to determine if they contained a chemical profile that could be falsely identified as agarwood.


Analysis of reference and commercial samples (n = 151) established that DART-TOFMS provides reproducible mass spectra that are useful for inferring the genus of suspected agarwood samples. We identified 17 ions which were useful for authenticating agarwood. Comparison of the number of chromone ions detected by direct analyses of dry wood chips versus eluent analysis of methanol-extracted wood showed that results were similar. Lastly, analysis of 25 scented woods of other species did not give false positive results.


Reliable criteria for inferring agarwood include the presence of diagnostic ions, m/z 319.118 or 349.129, in addition to ten or more ions characteristic of 2-(2-phenylethyl)chromones. Wood anatomists challenged with difficult morphological identifications can use this tool to assist in their analyses. Published 2012. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.