Chemical additives are incorporated into commercial lubricant oils to modify the physical and chemical properties of the lubricant. The quantitative analysis of additives in oil-based lubricants deposited on a surface without extraction of the sample from the surface presents a challenge. The potential of desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI-MS) for the quantitative surface analysis of an oil additive in a complex oil lubricant matrix without sample extraction has been evaluated.


The quantitative surface analysis of the antioxidant additive octyl (4-hydroxy-3,5-di-tert-butylphenyl)propionate in an oil lubricant matrix was carried out by DESI-MS in the presence of 2-(pentyloxy)ethyl 3-(3,5-di-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)propionate as an internal standard. A quadrupole/time-of-flight mass spectrometer fitted with an in-house modified ion source enabling non-proximal DESI-MS was used for the analyses.


An eight-point calibration curve ranging from 1 to 80 µg/spot of octyl (4-hydroxy-3,5-di-tert-butylphenyl)propionate in an oil lubricant matrix and in the presence of the internal standard was used to determine the quantitative response of the DESI-MS method. The sensitivity and repeatability of the technique were assessed by conducting replicate analyses at each concentration. The limit of detection was determined to be 11 ng/mm2 additive on spot with relative standard deviations in the range 3–14%.


The application of DESI-MS to the direct, quantitative surface analysis of a commercial lubricant additive in a native oil lubricant matrix is demonstrated. © 2013 The Authors. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.