Increasing the dimensionality of an analysis enables more detailed and comprehensive investigations of complex mixtures. One dimensional separation techniques like gas chromatography (GC) and ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) provide limited chemical information about complex mixtures. The combination of GC, ion mobility spectrometry, and time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-IM-TOFMS) provides three-dimensional separation of complex mixtures. In this work, a hybrid GC-IM-TOFMS with a secondary electrospray ionization (SESI) source provided four types of analytical information: GC retention time, ion mobility drift time, mass-to-charge ratios, and ion intensity. The use of secondary electrospray ionization enables efficient and soft ionization of gaseous sample vapors at atmospheric pressure. Several complex mixtures, including lavender and peppermint essential oils, were analyzed by GC-SESI-IM-TOFMS. The resulting 3D data from these mixtures, each containing greater than 50 components, were plotted as 3D projections. In particular, post-processed data plotted in three dimensions showed that many mass selected GC peaks were resolved into different ion mobility peaks. This technique shows clear promise for further in-depth analyses of complex chemical and biological mixtures.
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We would like to thank Dr. Kim Kaplan for her help identifying the compounds in this study. The ion mobility – time of flight mass spectrometer was developed and supported in part by a research grant from the Department of Health and Human Service: Public Health Services organization (Road Map Grant No. R21 DK070274).
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Crawford, C.L., Graf, S., Gonin, M. et al. The novel use of gas chromatography-ion mobility-time of flight mass spectrometry with secondary electrospray ionization for complex mixture analysis. Int. J. Ion Mobil. Spec. 14, 23–30 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12127-010-0057-2