Analytical chemistry, 80(8):2646-53, 4, 2008. Paper Website abstract bibtex
A novel chemical ionization source for organic mass spectrometry is introduced. This new source uses a glow discharge in the flowing afterglow mode for the generation of excited species and ions. The direct-current gas discharge is operated in helium at atmospheric pressure; typical operating voltages and currents are around 500 V and 25 mA, respectively. The species generated by this atmospheric pressure glow discharge are mixed with ambient air to generate reagent ions (mostly ionized water clusters and NO+), which are then used for the ionization of gaseous organic compounds. A wide variety of substances, both polar and nonpolar, can be ionized. The resulting mass spectra generally show the parent molecular ion (M+ or MH+) with little or no fragmentation. Proton transfer from ionized water clusters has been identified as the main ionization pathway. However, the presence of radical molecular ions (M+) for some compounds indicates that other ionization mechanisms are also involved. The analytical capabilities of this source were evaluated with a time-of-flight mass spectrometer, and preliminary characterization shows very good stability, linearity, and sensitivity. Limits of detection in the single to tens of femtomole range are reported for selected compounds.