Fragmentation inside proton-transfer-reaction-based mass spectrometers limits the detection of ROOR and ROOH peroxides.

Citation metadata

From: Atmospheric Measurement Techniques(Vol. 15, Issue 6)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Article
Length: 488 words

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

Proton transfer reaction (PTR) is a commonly applied ionization technique for mass spectrometers, in which hydronium ions (H.sub.3 O.sup.+) transfer a proton to analytes with higher proton affinities than the water molecule. This method has most commonly been used to quantify volatile hydrocarbons, but later-generation PTR instruments have been designed for better throughput of less volatile species, allowing detection of more functionalized molecules as well. For example, the recently developed Vocus PTR time-of-flight mass spectrometer (PTR-TOF) has been shown to agree well with an iodide-adduct-based chemical ionization mass spectrometer (CIMS) for products with 3-5 O atoms from oxidation of monoterpenes (C.sub.10 H.sub.16). However, while several different types of CIMS instruments (including those using iodide) detect abundant signals also at "dimeric" species, believed to be primarily ROOR peroxides, no such signals have been observed in the Vocus PTR even though these compounds fulfil the condition of having higher proton affinity than water. More traditional PTR instruments have been limited to volatile molecules as the inlets have not been designed for transmission of easily condensable species. Some newer instruments, like the Vocus PTR, have overcome this limitation but are still not able to detect the full range of functionalized products, suggesting that other limitations need to be considered. One such limitation, well-documented in PTR literature, is the tendency of protonation to lead to fragmentation of some analytes. In this work, we evaluate the potential for PTR to detect dimers and the most oxygenated compounds as these have been shown to be crucial for forming atmospheric aerosol particles. We studied the detection of dimers using a Vocus PTR-TOF in laboratory experiments, as well as through quantum chemical calculations. Only noisy signals of potential dimers were observed during experiments on the ozonolysis of the monoterpene α-pinene, while a few small signals of dimeric compounds were detected during the ozonolysis of cyclohexene. During the latter experiments, we also tested varying the pressures and electric fields in the ionization region of the Vocus PTR-TOF, finding that only small improvements were possible in the relative dimer contributions. Calculations for model ROOR and ROOH systems showed that most of these peroxides should fragment partially following protonation. With the inclusion of additional energy from the ion-molecule collisions driven by the electric fields in the ionization source, computational results suggest substantial or nearly complete fragmentation of dimers. Our study thus suggests that while the improved versions of PTR-based mass spectrometers are very powerful tools for measuring hydrocarbons and their moderately oxidized products, other types of CIMS are likely more suitable for the detection of ROOR and ROOH species.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A698249857