Quantitative determination of n-alkanethiols in air and in a blended gas mixture of methane with air by gas chromatography/differential mobility spectrometry

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Abstract

Mixtures of n-alkanethiols, in solution with equi-molar amounts from 0.5 to 360 ng per compound, were determined using gas chromatography (GC) with a differential mobility spectrometer, operated with a flow of air at ambient pressure, as the GC detector. A homologous series of n-alkanethiols with carbon number from two to six showed baseline resolution in the GC separation and positive and negative ion chromatograms were produced simultaneously for the alkanethiols. Differential mobility spectra showed compensation voltages characteristic of each alkanethiol and plots of ion intensity, retention time, and compensation voltage yield contour plots illustrating the second dimension of analytical selectivity provided by the detector. Another yet undeveloped dimension of analytical information was found in the dependence of mobility coefficients on electric field. Mass-analysis of ions from thiols showed a hydrogen abstracted ion, protonated monomers, and proton bound dimers. Linear ranges were narrow and the minimum detectable limits were ~1 ng. Response in positive polarity provided a ten-fold improvement in detection limits though spectra were more complex than for negative ions. In a methane-rich air atmosphere, intended to simulate ambient air or the detection of leaks from natural gas pipelines, the response to thiols with negative ions was not degraded by the methane up to 50% v/v, the highest level tested.