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High-Resolution, Accurate Mass Measurement: Elemental Compositions

High-Resolution, Accurate Mass Measurement: Elemental Compositions

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Mass Spectrometry Basics

TABLE 38.1

Relative Integer and Accurate Atomic

Masses for Some Common Elements.

Integer Mass









Accurate Mass


































Methane (CH 4 )

: 1 x carbon + 4 x hydrogen

=1 x 12 + 4 x 1

= 16 (16.031)

Water (H20)

: 2 x hydrogen + 1 x oxygen

= 2 x 1 + 1 x 16

= 18 (18.01057)

Ammonia (NHs) : 1 x nitrogen + 3 x hydrogen

= 1 x 14 + 3 x 1 = 17.0265)

Ethanol (C 2H 60) : 2 x carbon + 6 x hydrogen

+ 1 x oxygen = 2 x 12 + 6 x 1

+ 1 x 16 = 46 (46.0418)

Glucose (CSH 120): 6 x carbon + 12 x hydrogen

+ 1 x oxygen = 6 x 12 + 12 x 1


Figure 38.1

Calculation of molecular mass from a molecular formula for several simple substances. Accurate masses are shown

in parentheses.

the respective molecular formulae: H20, NH 3 , C2H60, and C 6H 1206 • For each of these substances

a molecular mass can be computed, as detailed in Figure 38.1. Since these masses are calculated

from relative atomic masses, they should be referred strictly as relative molecular mass (RMM).

Recent publications use RMM, but older publications used molecular weight (MW or M.Wt). Values

for the accurate relative molecular masses are also given in Figure 38.1.

In a mass spectrum, removal of an electron from a molecule (M) gives a molecular ion (Equation

38.1). The mass of an electron is very small compared with the mass of even the lightest element,

and for all practical purposes, the mass of M" is the same as that of M. Therefore, mass measurement

of a molecular ion gives the original relative molecular mass of the molecule.


Decomposition of ions gives fragment ions that can also be mass measured. Figure 38.2

illustrates a simple example in which the molecular ion of iodobenzene cleaves to give a fragment

ion, C6H5+, and an iodine atom, I. The molecular mass at 203.94381 corresponds to the molecular

formula (or elemental composition) of C 6H5I. while the fragment ion mass at 77.03915 corresponds

to the elemental composition, C6H 5 ; the difference in mass equates to the mass of the ejected neutral

iodine atom.

A suitable mass spectrometer can be set to measure relative atomic, molecular, or fragment

ion mass.

High-Resolution, Accurate Mass Measurement: Elemental Compositions


(molecular ion)

Formula or


Integer mass:

Accurate mass:


fragment ion

C 6 H 5 I (molecular)

C 6 H 5 (elemental)





Figure 38.2

Simple fragmentation of the molecular ion of iodobenzene gives a fragment ion, C 6Hs+. The difference in measured masses

between the molecular and fragment ions gives the mass of the ejected neutral iodine atom.

The Value of Accurate Mass Measurement

A mass spectrometer can measure integer relative mass with high accuracy, but the result is not

nearly so informative as measurement of accurate relative mass. An example illustrates the reason.

Three substances - carbon monoxide (CO), ethene (C 2H4 ) , and nitrogen (N 2) - each have

an integer molecular mass of 28 (Figure 38.3). Their occurrence in a mass spectrometer would give

molecular ions at integer masses of 28, and they could not be distinguished from each other.

However, their respective accurate masses of 27.99491,28.03132, and 28.00614 are different, and

a mass spectrometer capable of accurate mass measurement would be able to distinguish them even

if all three occurred in the same sample. Thus, accurate mass measurement is useful for confirming the

molecularcomposition of a tentatively identified material.

There is a more important use, Suppose a mass spectrometer has accurately measured the

molecular mass of an unknown substance as 58.04189. Reference to tables of molecular mass vs.

elemental composition will reveal that the molecular formula is C3H6 0 (see Table 38.2). The molecular

formula for an unknown substance can be determined which is enormously helpful in identifying it.

Finally, accurate mass measurement can be used to help unravel fragmentation mechanisms.

A very simple example is given in Figure 38.2. If it is supposed that accurate mass measurements

were made on the two ions at 203.94381 and 77.03915, then their difference in mass (126.90466)

corresponds exactly to the atomic mass of iodine, showing that this atom must have been eliminated

in the fragmentation reaction.

Resolution of Mass Spectrometers

The ability of a mass spectrometer to separate two masses (M], M 2) is termed resolution (R). The

most common definition of R is given by Equation 38.2, in which ~M = M] - M 1 and M = M] ==

Chemical name

Carbon monoxide




Integer Mass

Accurate Mass










Figure 38.3

Integer and accurate masses for three different gases, each having the same integer relative molecular mass (RMM :: 28).

Mass Spectrometry Basics



A Listing of Elemental Compositions vs.

Accurate Mass at Nominal Integer Mass of 58

Integer Mass = 58 *





Accurate Mass


- - - - - - - - -



































Compositions are read from left to right. Thus, the fifth entry in

the table would be C 2H4NO, with an accurate mass of 58.053096.

M 2 • Thus, if a mass spectrometer can separate two masses (100, 101), then ~ = I, M = 100, and

R = 100. For conventional accurate mass measurement, R needs to be as large as possible, typically

having a value of 20,000. At this sort of resolution, a mass of 100.000 can be separated from a

second mass at 100.0050 (~ = MIR = 100120,000 = 0.005)



To use the formula in Equation 38.2, it is necessary to define at what stage the two peaks

representing the two masses are actually separate (Figure 38.4). The depth of the valley between

the two peaks serves this purpose, with valley definitions of 5, 10, or 50%. A 5% valley definition

is a much stricter criterion of separation efficiency than the 50% definition.

Measurement of Accurate Mass

By Automated Methods

All routine mass spectrometers measure accurate mass by reference to standard substances. Highresolution, accurate mass measurement requires that a standard substance and the sample under

investigation be in the mass spectrometer at the same time. Ions from the standard have known

mass, and ions from the unknown (sample) are mass measured by interpolation between successive masses due to the standard (Figure 38.5). High resolution is needed to ensure that there will

be mass separation between ions due to the standard and those due to the sample. For this reason,

the standard substances are usually perfluorinated hydrocarbons, since ions from these substances

have masses somewhat less than an integer value, whereas most other (organic) compounds have

masses somewhat greater than an integer value. For example, at integer mass 124, the fluorocarbon

C 4F4 has an accurate mass of 123.9936 while a hydrocarbon, C 9H16 , has an accurate mass of

124.12528. A mass spectrometer resolution of 4000 is sufficient to separate these masses. The

whole operation is usually automated by a data system, but it can be done manually by a system

of peak matching.

High-Resolution, Accurate Mass Measurement: Elemental Compositions



50% valley


10 % valley


5% valley

Figure 38.4

The separation (L1M) of two peaks representing masses (M I , M1) can be defined as having a 5, 10, or 50% valley - the

depth of the valley is 5, 10, or 50% of peak height. The 5% definition is a more severe test of instrument performance.



Figure 38.5

Partof a high-resolution mass spectrum showing two peaks (S[, Sl) due to ions of mass (M I , M1) from a standard substance

and one peak (U) due to an ion of unknown mass (M u) from a sample substance. The difference between M I and M1 is

accurately known, and therefore the mass. Mu ' can be obtained by interpolation (the separation of M, from M I or M2 ) . If

the separation of MI' M2 is a time (T) and that of M j • M, is time (t), then for a linear mass scale M, =[t (M1 . M\)fT] + M[.

By Peak-Matching Methods

In the example of Figure 38.5, for a magnetic-sector instrument, two masses (M[, Mu ) will follow

different trajectories in the mass spectrometer, defined by radii of curvature (r., ru ; see Chapter 24,

"Ion Optics of Magnetic/Electric-Sector Mass Spectrometers"). If the magnetic-field strength is B,

and the ions are accelerated from the ion source through an electric potential of V volts, then

Equation 38.3 follows. If the voltage (V) is changed to V* so that r, ::= ru ' then Equation 38.4 shows

that the unknown mass (M u) can be calculated if mass (M j ) from the standard is known and the

ratio of V*N is measured.


Mass Spectrometry Basics


Therefore, for accurate mass measurement, a standard mass peak (M}) is selected, and the accelerating voltage (V) is changed until the sample ion peak (Mu ) exactly coincides with the position

of Mj. This technique is called peak matching, and the ratio between the original and new voltages

(V N*) multiplied by mass (M 1) gives the unknown mass, Mu •

For greatest accuracy, the standard mass (M) should be as close as possible to the unknown CMu).






Peak matching can be done on quadrupole and magnetic-sector mass spectrometers, but only

the latter, particularly as double-focusing instruments, have sufficiently high resolution for the

technique to be useful at high mass.

Other Methods

Other techniques for mass measurement are available, but they are not as popular as those outlined

above. These other methods include mass measurements on a standard substance to calibrate the

instrument. The standard is then withdrawn, and the unknown is let into the instrument to obtain

a new spectrum that is compared with that of the standard. It is assumed that there are no

instrumental variations during this changeover. Generally, this technique is less reliable than when

the standard and unknown are in the instrument together. Fourier-transform techniques are used

with ion cyclotron mass spectrometers and give excellent mass accuracy at lower mass but not at



By high-resolution mass spectrometry, ions of known mass from a standard substance can be

separated from ions of unknown mass derived from a sample substance. By measuring the unknown

mass relative to the known ones through interpolation or peak matching, the unknown can be

measured. An accurate mass can be used to obtain an elemental composition for an ion. If the latter

is the molecular ion, the composition is the molecular formula.


Choice of Mass Spectrometer


Early in the history of mass spectrometry, instruments were built by individual scientists and often

could not be used or understood by anyone but the inventor. Now, very few scientists build their

own mass spectrometers, and many commercial types are available. Although commercial mass

spectrometers can be adapted to specialized needs, in most cases they are used by people who want

fast, accurate answers to a wide range of questions, such as, "Is this painting genuinely old or is

it a modern fake?" or "Was this horse doped when it won the race?" or "What is the structure of

this new protein?" These questions can be broadly classified under the heading of analysis, a topic

that embraces most uses of commercial mass spectrometers. Given this wide usage and the range

of mass spectrometers that are commercially available, it can be difficult to choose the right

instrument. This chapter reviews some of the factors that should be considered in selecting a mass

spectrometer system. Of course, any decision is likely to be a compromise between what is desirable

and what is available within a given price range.

Note that many of the terms mentioned in this chapter are discussed in detail elsewhere in this book.

For example, the theory and practical uses of electron ionization (EI) are fully discussed in Chapter 3.

Objectives in Buying a Mass Spectrometer

Deciding on the main objective for buying a mass spectrometer is an obvious first step, but it is

essential in achieving a satisfactory result. Before approaching suppliers of commercial mass

spectrometers, it is wise to set out on paper the exact analytical requirements for both the immediate

and near future. The speed of advance in science - especially in analysis and mass spectrometry

- means that long-range prognostications of future requirements are likely to be highly speculative

and therefore of little relevance.

Once basic requirements and secondary objectives have been established, the prospective

purchaser will find it easier to discuss details with sales representatives. From the latter's viewpoint,

it is easier to talk to a potential customer who knows what he needs from a mass spectrometer

system rather than to a customer who has only a vague idea of what is required. In fact, an

uninformed customer can end up purchasing an expensive instrument that is far too good for the

analyses required or, at the other extreme, a cheap instrument that is inadequate for immediate

needs, let alone ones that might arise in the near future.



Mass Spectrometry Basics

Future usage of a new instrument is worth considering, even if long-range forecasting is

unlikely to be useful. It is almost inevitable that, once a new instrument has been installed and

is operating routinely, people or groups within an organization that has just acquired a new mass

spectrometer begin to hear about what it can do. This news leads to them to devise new ways

of carrying out analyses with the help of the new instrument. Such healthy developments often

lead to pressure on available time on the new machine, and an instrument that cannot accommodate some increase in output leads to disappointment and, often, a need to make another

purchase sooner than expected. Therefore, when contemplating the purchase of a new instrument,

it is useful to explore the possibility that the machine may need to be adapted to increase

throughput or to change the way it operates. For example, it may be desirable to fit an alternative

type of ion source, and an instrument that cannot be adapted easily could be a drawback. These

are relevant issues to raise with a sales representative, if only to set boundaries in the putative

purchaser's own mind. Some instruments come as a complete system aimed at one primary

objective and are almost impossible to alter, even modestly (unless expense is no object!). Other

instruments may place an unacceptably low limit on the number of samples that can be examined

per hour or per day.

Setting out the objectives in a detailed fashion and assigning priority to those objectives is an

essential first step and is time welI spent. Once carefully considered, it could become clear that

the objectives fall into two different categories and that it might be cheaper to purchase two dedicated

instruments rather than one large, all-encompassing mass spectrometer.

Types of Sample

Samples can be single substances; complex mixtures of well-known, relatively simple substances;

complex mixtures of substances of totally unknown structure; or combinations of such analyses.

It is impossible to generalize in such situations, but it is possible to offer guidelines on some of

the important issues.

For the simpler analyses, it may be necessary to look only for the presence of impurities in a

single substance that is volatile, thermally stable, and easy to handle. Such analyses can be tackled

with most kinds of mass spectrometer having simple inlet systems. At the other end of the scale

of difficulty, there are several major analytical pathways. The sample can be a single substance and

still be very intractable. For example, ceramics or bone are often considered single entities, whereas

each is chemically complex, nonvolatile, and difficult to break down into simpler identifiable

species, posing severe analytical problems. The sample could be a mixture of polar, thermally

unstable proteins or peptides from a biological sample, with many of the constituents of unknown

structure. In such a case, the whole sample needs chromatography, a specialized inlet system, and

possible MS/MS (two MS systems used in tandem) facilities. As in the case of toxic substances,

the important components of a sample may be present only as traces, and high sensitivity of

detection is required.

Complexity of Sample

A sample can be complex in one of two ways. It might be a single substance with a very complex

chemical structure, or it might contain several substances of varying polarity, volatility, and

thermal stability.

If samples are largely pure, single substances, then the sample inlet can be quite simple,

as with a direct insertion probe or a gas inlet. However, most analyses require assessment of

the number of components, their relative proportions, and their chemical structures. This level


Choice of Mass Spectrometer


of complexity will normally need some degree of separation of the components before examination by mass spectrometry. Isolation and concentration of the components that need to be

examined by mass spectrometry is usually a first step, and, when properly designed, this sort

of preanalytical step can lead to big improvements in overall sensitivity and to less demand

on the mass spectrometer. For example, volatile organic components from soil samples are

usually removed by vaporization before analysis rather than trying to put the soil sample into

the mass spectrometer.

After this preseparation stage (sometimes called sample cleanup), it may still be necessary

to effect some separation of the required sample components. For example, with regard to the

soil sample mentioned above, the isolated volatile organics may consist of literally hundreds of

components present in widely varying amounts. In these circumstances, it is necessary to use a

chromatographic procedure to separate the components before they are passed into the mass

spectrometer. This separation can be done manually, in that each component can be trapped as

it emerges from a gas chromatograph (GC) or liquid chromatograph (LC) column and then

transferred to a simple inlet system on the mass spectrometer (MS). It is much more likely that

the GC or LC apparatus will be linked directly to the mass spectrometer so that, as each

component emerges from the chromatographic column, it is transferred immediately into the

mass spectrometer. Therefore, combined GCIMS, LCIMS, or CE/MS (capillary electrophoresis

and mass spectrometry) may be needed, depending on the nature of the substances to be analyzed.

While there is some overlap, in that some substances could be examined by either GCIMS or

LCIMS, usually analyses are required using only one type of inlet. This consideration is important

because inlets for GC/MS, LCIMS, and CEIMS are different, and the addition of a second or

third inlet will substantially increase the cost of the mass spectrometer system. If changing from

one inlet system to another is time consuming, the process will lead to time when the mass

spectrometer cannot be used, which can be costly for a busy analytical laboratory. This factor

is another reason for carefully distinguishing between essential inlet systems and those that would

merely be useful.

It might be noted at this stage that some mass spectrometer inlets are also ionization sources.

For example, with electrospray ionization (ES) and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization

(APCI), the inlet systems themselves also provide the ions needed for mass spectrometry. In these

cases, the method of introducing the sample becomes the method of ionization, and the two are

not independent. This consideration can be important. For example, electrospray produces abundant

protonated molecular ions but no fragment ions. While this is extremely important for accurate

mass information and for dealing with mixtures by MS/MS, the lack of fragment ions gives almost

no chemical structure information. If such information is needed, then the mass spectrometer will

have to be capable of fragmenting the protonated molecular ions through incorporation of a collision

gas cell or other means, again adding to cost.

Prior separation of mixtures into individual components may not be needed. If the mass

spectrometer is capable of MSIMS operation, one of the mass spectrometers is used to isolate

individual ions according to mlz value (mass-to-charge ratio), and the other is used to examine

their fragmentation products to obtain structural information.

For analytical laboratories with high throughputs of samples, it is usually necessary to have

automatic samplers, so that the mass spectrometer can work 24 hours per day, even in the absence

of an operator. Therefore, one consideration that may be important in deciding on an instrument

could be as simple as asking how long it takes to set the operating characteristics of the mass

spectrometer. How easy is it to calibrate? Most modern systems use computer programs that

automatically check and adjust voltages, peak shapes, and so on at the touch of a button.

Calibration for accuracy of m1z value may be trivial, but it can also be complex, especially at

high resolution.

Table 39.1 indicates very broadly which arrangement of mass spectrometer might be used for

various sample types.


Mass Spectrometry Basics

TABLE 39.1

Complexity of Samples to Be Examined and Mass Spectrometer Type

Complexity of Sample






Single substances







Mixture of volatile substances




Mixture of solids in solution





Mixture of insoluble solids



Sample Volatility, Polarity, and Thermal Stability


The ease of vaporization of a sample can be an overriding factor in choice of mass spectrometer.

Generally, the three phases - gas, liquid, and solid - need to be considered. By definition, a gas

is volatile, and inserting a gas into a mass spectrometer is easy. A simple system of valves and

filters is sufficient for transferring a gas into the vacuum of a mass spectrometer, and often an El

source is all that is needed. Additionally, gases tend to be of low molecular mass, so ion analyzers

for gases need not be very sophisticated or have more than a modest resolving power to cover the

range needed (often less than an upper limit of mlz 100-150). Mass spectrometers for such purposes

can be very small and light, and they are used on space probes to other planets. Similarly, small

mass spectrometers (usually quadrupole instruments) are used to monitor atmospheres on earth in

places where noxious substances may be present. These small mass spectrometers can be used in

and transported by small vans or cars.

Apart from substances that are gaseous at normal ambient temperatures, other materials cross

the divide between gas and liquid when they have boiling points in the range from -10 to +40°C.

Such substances are so volatile that their mass spectrometric analysis becomes just as easy as that

for gases. For example, butane has a boiling point just below normal ambient temperatures, and

diethyl ether has a boiling point not much above most ambient temperatures. This intermediate

volatility produces a gray area from the viewpoint of mass spectrometric analysis, since the cutoff

between a gas (such as argon) and a highly volatile liquid (such as petrol) is not sharp and is highly

dependent on ambient or operating temperatures. Even some solids produce significant vapor

pressures, so they could be analyzed by simple gas mass spectrometers if the mass range is

sufficiently large. Camphor is a solid at normal ambient temperatures, but it volatilizes (sublimes)

very easily. It is worth recalling in this context that, usually, whatever the ambient atmospheric

temperature, the mass spectrometer itself will not normally operate outside certain limits. Above

about 35°C, the electronic components in computer-controlled systems become increasingly unstable, and frequently it is necessary to install suitable air-conditioning. Below about 10°C, condensation of atmospheric moisture onto a mass spectrometer can lead to electrical problems through

short circuits. Therefore, in considering whether or not a mass spectrometer would be useful for

volatile liquids, it is worth considering the temperature of the operating mass spectrometer and not

simply outside ambient temperatures. A mass spectrometer operating in the Arctic or Antarctic

requires air-conditioning just as much as one operating near the equator.

Of course, some substances are sufficiently volatile that a heated inlet line can be used to get

them into a mass spectrometer. Even here, there are practical problems. Suppose a liquid or solid

is sufficiently volatile, that heating it to 50°C is enough to get the vapor into the mass spectrometer

through a heated inlet line. If the mass spectrometer analyzer is at 30°C, there is a significant

possibility that some of the sample will condense onto the inner walls of the spectrometer and

slowly vaporize from there. If the vacuum pumps cannot remove this vapor quickly, then the mass

Choice of Mass Spectrometer


spectrometer will produce a background spectrum of the substance added through the heated inlet

line throughout successive analyses of other substances. This well-known memory effect can be

tedious to remove and can slow the throughput of analyses. Thus it is probably best to consider

that any substance that remains a liquid above about 50 to 70°C should not be considered for

analysis in a gas mass spectrometer. Similarly, it would probably not be wise to insert sublimable

solids into such instruments.


As with gases, there are no sharply defined limits for what should be considered a liquid under MS

operating conditions, and the best guide with regard to use of mass spectrometers probably comes

from the operating temperature range (10 to 30°C) of the instrument or any associated apparatus. A

mass spectrometer inlet may be at atmospheric pressure or it may be under a high vacuum (10-5 to

l~ mm of mercury). Clearly, introduction of a low-boiling liquid into the inlet of a system under

high vacuum will lead to it" rapid volatilization. It may even be that the pressure rise resulting from

volatilization of a liquid becomes so great that the instrument shuts itself down to safeguard its

vacuum gauges and ion detectors. It is worth recalling that even substances with a boiling point of

100°C or more will evaporate rapidly in a vacuum of 10-5 mm of mercury. The higher the boiling

point, the less it is a problem. Liquids and even solids may well arrive at the mass spectrometer

inlet in vapor form, as when they come from a gas chromatograph. Generally, the amounts of such

emerging substances are very low, so, if the vacuum is high, transfer from the chromatographic

column is easy through a heated line to the inlet or ion source of a mass spectrometer.

Liquids that are sufficiently volatile to be treated as gases (as in GC) are usually not very polar

and have little or no hydrogen bonding between molecules. As molecular mass increases and as

polar and hydrogen-bonding forces increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to treat a sample as

a liquid with inlet systems such as EI and chemical ionization (CI), which require the sample to

be in vapor form. Therefore, there is a transition from volatile to nonvolatile liquids, and different

inlet systems may be needed. At this point, LC begins to become important for sample preparation

and connection to a mass spectrometer.

To achieve sufficient vapor pressure for EI and CI, a nonvolatile liquid will have to be heated

strongly, but this heating may lead to its thermal degradation. If thermal instability is a problem,

then inlet/ionization systems need to be considered, since these do not require prevolatilization of

the sample before mass spectrometric analysis. This problem has led to the development of

inlet/ionization systems that can operate at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperatures. Successive developments have led to the introduction of techniques such as fast-atom bombardment

(FAB), fast-ion bombardment (FIB), dynamic FAB, thermospray, plasmaspray, electrospray, and

APCI. Only the last two techniques are in common use. Further aspects of liquids in their role as

solvents for samples are considered below.


Substances that are solid at ambient temperatures are likely to have strong polar, electrostatic, and

sometimes hydrogen-bonding forces. In some solids, such as sterols, these forces are sufficiently

weak that they can be vaporized easily and analyzed by GC or GCIMS. They are also fairly stable

to heat. However, many other solids, such as proteins, carbohydrates, or oligonucleotides, also have

very strong electrostatic, polar, and hydrogen-bonding forces, and efforts to volatilize these substances using heat simply leads to their decomposition. Such materials need special methods to get

them into a mass spectrometer, especially if they are in solution in aqueous solvent, as is often the

case. Therefore, while some solids can be examined by GCIMS methods or even by simple


Mass Spectrometry Basics

introduction probes by EI or CI (perhaps after suitable derivatization), many other solids need to

be inserted into a mass spectrometer in a different manner, such as by ES or APCI.

Solutions of solids may need to be converted into aerosols by pneumatic or sonic-spraying

techniques. After solvent has evaporated from the aerosol droplets, the residual particulate solid

matter can be ionized by a plasma torch.

Some solid materials are very intractable to analysis by standard methods and cannot be easily

vaporized or dissolved in common solvents. Glass, bone, dried paint. and archaeological samples

are common examples. These materials would now be examined by laser ablation, a technique that

produces an aerosol of particulate matter. The laser can be used in its defocused mode for surface

profiling or in its focused mode for depth profiling. Interestingly, lasers can be used to vaporize

even thermally labile materials through use of the matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization

(MALDI) method variant.

For solids, there is now a very wide range of inlet and ionization opportunities, so most types

of solids can be examined, either neat or in solution. However, the inlet/ionization methods are often

not simply interchangeable, even if they use the same mass analyzer. Thus a direct-insertion probe

will normally be used with EI or CI (and desorption chemical ionization, DCI) methods of ionization.

An LC is used with ES or APCI for solutions, and nebulizers can be used with plasma torches for

other solutions. MALOI or laser ablation are used for direct analysis of solids.

Table 39.2 shows the ionization modes that are suitable for different physical properties of

sample substances.

Mass Analyzers

Commercial mass analyzers are based almost entirely on quadrupoles, magnetic sectors (with or

without an added electric sector for high-resolution work), and time-of-flight (TOF) configurations

or a combination of these. There are also ion traps and ion cyclotron resonance instruments. These

are discussed as single use and combined (hybrid) use.

Single Analyzers

The advantages and disadvantages of single analyzers need to be examined within the context for

which they will be used rather than for their overall attributes. For example, a simple quadrupole,

TABLE 39.2

Sample Type and Mode of IontzatlonSample>









Liquid (volatile)



Liquid (nonvolatile)

Solidt volatile)


Solid (nonvolatile)"


Solution (direct insertion)






EI = electron ionization; CI = chemical ionization; ES = electrospray; APCI = atmospheric-pressure chemical

ionization; MALDI = matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization; PT =plasma torch (isotope ratios); TI = thermal

(surface) ionization (isotope ratios).


These are only approximate guides.


Solids must be in solution.

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