Mechanisms for negative reactant ion formation in an atmospheric pressure corona discharge

Original Research


In an effort to better understand the formation of negative reactant ions in air produced by an atmospheric pressure corona discharge source, the neutral vapors generated by the corona were introduced in varying amounts into the ionization region of an ion mobility spectrometer/mass spectrometer containing a 63Ni ionization source. With no discharge gas the predominant ions were O2 , however, upon the introduction of low levels of discharge gas the NO2 ion quickly became the dominant species. As the amount of discharge gas increased the appearance of CO3 was observed followed by the appearance of NO3 . At very high levels, NO3 species became effectively the only ion present and appeared as two peaks in the IMS spectrum, NO3 and the NO3 ·HNO3 adduct, with separate mobilities. Since explosive compounds typically ionize in the presence of negative reactant ions, the ionization of an explosive, RDX, was examined in order to investigate the ionization properties with these three primary ions. It was found that RDX forms a strong adduct with both NO2 and NO3 with reduced mobility values of 1.49 and 1.44 cm2V−1 s−1, respectively. No adduct was observed for RDX with CO3 although this adduct has been observed with a corona discharge mass spectrometer. It is believed that this adduct, although formed, does not have a sufficiently long lifetime (greater than 10 ms) to be observed in an ion mobility spectrometer.


Corona discharge Ion mobility spectrometry Explosive detection Atmospheric pressure chemical ionization 



We gratefully acknowledge the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program for funding this research through the Initiative for Explosives Detection at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a multiprogram national laboratory operated by Battelle Memorial Institute for the US Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC05-76RL01830.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA
  2. 2.New Mexico TechSocorroUSA

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