Differentiation of isobaric compounds using chemical ionization reaction mass spectrometry.


The technique of proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) couples a proton transfer reagent, usually H3O+, with a drift tube and mass spectrometer to determine concentrations of volatile organic compounds. Here we describe a first attempt to use chemical ionization (CI) reagents other than proton transfer species inside a PTR-MS instrument. The ability to switch to other types of CI reagents provides an extra dimension to the technique. This capability is demonstrated by focusing on the ability to distinguish several isobaric aldehydes and ketones, including the atmospherically important molecules methacrolein and methyl vinyl ketone. Two CI reagents were selected, H3O+ and NO+, both being cleanly generated in a low intensity radioactive source prior to injection into the drift tube. By recording spectra with both of these reagents, the contributions from different isobaric molecules can be separated by virtue of their unique spectrometric 'fingerprints'. The work demonstrates that this form of instrumentation is not restricted to proton transfer reagents and is the basis of a more general technique, chemical ionization reaction mass spectrometry (CIRMS).