Application of an integrated matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight, electrospray ionization mass spectrometry and tandem mass spectrometry approach to characterizing complex polyol mixtures

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Polyols are being used in a wide range of industrial applications including surfactants and precursors for grafted polymers. The characterization of polyols is of significance in correlating compositions and structures with their properties. We illustrate two real world examples where traditional analytical methods including GPC and NMR failed to reveal compositional differences, but the combination of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF), electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI MS), and MS/MS can produce compositional information required for problem solving. The first example involves failure analysis of four ethylene oxide and propylene oxide (EO/PO) copolymer products. The results from the mass spectrometry analysis unequivocally demonstrate that one of the samples has a small variation in copolymer composition, leading to its abnormal activity. The second example is in the area of deformulation of complex polyol mixtures. Two samples displaying similar properties and activities were found to be two different polyol blends. One of the samples is a more cost-effective product. These examples demonstrate that MALDI, ESI MS, and MS/MS should be seriously considered as an integrated component of an overall polyol characterization program in product failure analysis and deformulation.