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High-Sensitivity Elemental Mass Spectrometry of Fluorine by Ionization in Plasma Afterglow

Lesniewski, Joseph E., Zheng, Kunyu, Lecchi, Paolo, Dain, David, Jorabchi, Kaveh
Analytical chemistry 2019 v.91 no.6 pp. 3773-3777
atmospheric pressure, atomic absorption spectrometry, fluorine, infant formulas, ionization, sodium fluoride, tandem mass spectrometry
Fluorine elemental analysis using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) is challenging because of low F ionization efficiency in the plasma and severe isobaric interferences. Notably, there is an increasing demand for ppb level fluorine measurements due to the rising importance of fluorinated compounds in pharmaceutical, environmental, and food analyses. Here, we report a new elemental ionization method where fluorinated analytes are introduced into an ICP to produce NaF followed by Na₂F⁺ formation in the atmospheric-pressure plasma afterglow. The new method offers over 2 orders of magnitude improved sensitivities (180–500 cps/ppb versus 1.6–3.2 cps/ppb) for F detection. This approach also yields compound-independent F response for quantitation without compound-specific standards. Detection limits of ∼50 ppb F are attained using a single-quadrupole instrument without discrimination against isobaric interferences. Similar LODs are achievable only by isobaric interference reduction in ICPMS/MS. Importantly, the new approach offers facile interfacing to molecular MS instruments where LODs can be further improved via MS/MS and high-resolution MS techniques. The tolerance to matrix is demonstrated by quantitation of fluoride in infant formula, yielding recoveries of 86%–98% with repeatabilities of 3.5–6.3 RSD%.