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On-line Monitoring of Continuous Flow Chemical Synthesis Using a Portable, Small Footprint Mass Spectrometer


For on-line monitoring of chemical reactions (batch or continuous flow), mass spectrometry (MS) can provide data to (1) determine the fate of starting materials and reagents, (2) confirm the presence of the desired product, (3) identify intermediates and impurities, (4) determine steady state conditions and point of completion, and (5) speed up process optimization. Recent developments in small footprint atmospheric pressure ionization portable mass spectrometers further enable this coupling, as the mass spectrometer can be easily positioned with the reaction system to be studied. A major issue for this combination is the transfer of a sample that is representative of the reaction and also compatible with the mass spectrometer. This is particularly challenging as high concentrations of reagents and products can be encountered in organic synthesis. The application of a portable mass spectrometer for on-line characterization of flow chemical synthesis has been evaluated by coupling a Microsaic 4000 MiD to the Future Chemistry Flow Start EVO chemistry system. Specifically, the Hofmann rearrangement has been studied using the on-line mass spectrometry approach. Sample transfer from the flow reactor is achieved using a mass rate attenuator (MRA) and a sampling make-up flow from a high pressure pump. This enables the appropriate sample dilution, transfer, and preparation for electrospray ionization. The capability of this approach to provide process understanding is described using an industrial pharmaceutical process that is currently under development. The effect of a number of key experimental parameters, such as the composition of the sampling make-up flow and the dilution factor on the mass spectrometry data, is also discussed.

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Correspondence to Tony W. T. Bristow.

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Bristow, T.W.T., Ray, A.D., O’Kearney-McMullan, A. et al. On-line Monitoring of Continuous Flow Chemical Synthesis Using a Portable, Small Footprint Mass Spectrometer. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 25, 1794–1802 (2014).

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  • Continuous flow chemistry
  • Reaction monitoring
  • Small footprint portable mass spectrometer
  • On-line