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Direct inlet probe – High-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry as fast technique for the chemical description of complex high-boiling samples

Käfer, Uwe, Gröger, Thomas, Rüger, Christopher P., Czech, Hendryk, Saraji-Bozorgzad, Mohammad, Wilharm, Thomas, Zimmermann, Ralf
Talanta 2019 v.202 pp. 308-316
atmospheric pressure, elemental composition, ionization, mass spectrometry, petroleum, physicochemical properties
Comprehensive chemical investigation of non-volatile complex mixtures, without extensive sample pretreatment, remains challenging due to the high number of constituents with different chemical properties. In past years, direct high-resolution mass spectrometry established itself as powerful technique for the detailed molecular description of ultra-complex mixtures, but was mainly used with atmospheric pressure ionization. In this study, we present a direct inlet approach with vacuum ionization and high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Exemplary, the non-volatile fractions of crude oil were directly inserted into the ion source and volatilized under reduced pressure conditions. An applied temperature gradient enabled thermal pre-separation, according to volatility, prior to electron ionization and mass spectrometric detection. With exact mass information, peaks were assigned to elemental compositions and grouped into component classes. Moreover, the application of supervised and unsupervised statistical tools allowed differentiation of the samples on a molecular level and the identification and attribution of significant chemical features.