Ambient analysis by thermal desorption atmospheric pressure photoionization
Ambient mass spectrometry has attracted substantial attention in recent years. Among ambient ionization methods, thermal desorption ionization stands out because of two attributes: (1) simplicity, rendering the technique suitable for in-field applications, and (2) ability to couple with a variety of gas-phase ionization methods thereby broadening the range of molecules that can be analyzed with this method. Here, we report on improving the performance of a direct analysis in real time (DART) source by implementing atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) downstream of the desorption region. At identical desorption and ion sampling conditions, APPI leads to detection of radical molecular ions from non-polar compounds that are absent from the spectra generated by DART alone. Moreover, a factor of 3–5 improvement in sensitivity is observed using APPI for positive ions commonly detected by DART and DART-APPI. Using helium and nitrogen as desorption gases, APPI shows identical performance regardless of desorption gas type. In contrast, a dramatic decrease in sensitivity is observed for DART operated with nitrogen compared to DART with helium. Comparable performance for DART and DART-APPI are observed in negative ion mode, although both show a drastic improvement in the absence of the Vapur interface. This interface creates a differentially pumped chamber prior to inlet of the mass spectrometer and reduces the mass spectrometer gas load when helium is used as desorption gas.
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