Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 408, Issue 13, pp 3425–3434 | Cite as

Pesticide analysis at ppt concentration levels: coupling nano-liquid chromatography with dielectric barrier discharge ionization-mass spectrometry

  • Mario F. Mirabelli
  • Jan-Christoph Wolf
  • Renato ZenobiEmail author
Research Paper


We report the coupling of nano-liquid chromatography (nano-LC) with an ambient dielectric barrier discharge ionization (DBDI)-based source. Detection and quantification were carried out by high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS), using an LTQ-Orbitrap in full scan mode. Despite the fact that nano-LC systems are rarely used in food analysis, this coupling was demonstrated to deliver extremely high sensitivity in pesticide analysis, with limits of detection (LODs) as low as 10 pg/mL. In all cases, the limits of quantification (LOQs) were compliant with the current EU regulation. An excellent signal linearity over up to four orders of magnitude was also observed. Therefore, this method can easily compete with conventional GC-(EI)-MS or LC-ESI-MS/MS methods and in some cases outperform them. The method was successfully tested for food sample analysis, with apples and baby food, extracted using the QuEChERS approach. Our results demonstrate an outstanding sensitivity (at femtogram level) and reproducibility of the nano-LC-DBDI coupling, capable of improving routine pesticide analysis. To the best of our knowledge, this is the most sensitive and reproducible plasma-MS-based method for pesticide analysis reported to date.


DBDI Nano-liquid chromatography Active capillary plasma ionization Ambient ionization Pesticides QuEChERS 



The authors acknowledge Dr. Juan Zhang from Novartis AG for the generous donation of the high-resolution Orbitrap-MS system used within this study. They also thank Christian Marro from the technical workshop of ETH for the valuable support and the construction of the experimental setup.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2016_9419_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (647 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 647 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario F. Mirabelli
    • 1
  • Jan-Christoph Wolf
    • 1
    • 2
  • Renato Zenobi
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Applied BiosciencesETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Plasmion UGIngolstadtGermany

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