Direct, quantitative analysis of organic contaminants in complex samples using membrane introduction mass spectrometry with electron and chemical ionization




Vandergrift, Gregory William

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Condensed phase membrane introduction mass spectrometry (CP-MIMS) is a direct, in situ analysis technique that is well suited to persistent organic pollutants, pesticides, and other small molecules. In CP-MIMS, neutral analytes permeate a hollow fibre membrane, typically polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), driven by a concentration gradient. Analytes are subsequently dissolved by a liquid (condensed) solvent acceptor phase that is continuously flowed through the membrane lumen, which finally entrains the analytes to a mass spectrometer for detection. The membrane rejects charged and particulate matrix components, therefore eliminating sample cleanup that is otherwise necessary for conventional (i.e., chromatographic) techniques. However, larger analytes may suffer from relatively lengthy response times and lower sensitivity. A heptane cosolvent was therefore doped into the PDMS membrane, resulting in a polymer inclusion membrane (PIM). Through a system coupling CP-MIMS to electrospray ionization (ESI), the use of a PIM for model compounds resulted in faster response (~3×) and improved sensitivity (~3.5×, parts per trillion level detection limits). While effective for the demonstration of the PIM, pairing ESI with CP-MIMS represents an inherent incongruity: ESI is effective for polar, hydrophilic analytes, whereas CP-MIMS (i.e., PDMS membranes) is effective for hydrophobic analytes. CP-MIMS was therefore coupled with liquid electron ionization (LEI) as a more suitable ionization strategy. In LEI, the post-membrane solvent flow is entrained at nanolitre per minute flowrates to a LEI source, where the liquid is sequentially nebulized, vaporized, and ionized. The CP-MIMS-LEI coupling was optimized for the measurements of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) isomer classes from aqueous samples, demonstrating low ng/L detection limits and response times (≤1.6 min). CP-MIMS-LEI was also applied to PAH isomer classes from soil samples, demonstrating rapid sample throughput (15 samples/hr) and low μg/kg detection limits, and additionally was quantitatively comparable to conventional techniques. A similar CP-MIMS-LEI system was applied to online monitoring of catalytic oxidation and alkylation reactions, demonstrating quantitative, real-time results for harsh, complex organic reaction mixtures. A significant analytical improvement was conducted by intentionally exploiting the already present liquid acceptor phase as an in situ means of providing liquid chemical ionization (CI) reagents for improved analyte sensitivity and selectivity (i.e., CP-MIMS-LEI/CI). Acetonitrile and diethyl ether were used as a combination acceptor phase/CI reagent system (i.e., proton transfer reagents) for the direct analysis of bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate from house dust (6 mg/kg detection limit). CP-MIMS-LEI/CI was then applied to PAHs from soils. Using methanol and dichloromethane combination acceptor phase/CI reagents, CP-MIMS-LEI/CI was shown to quantify and resolve PAH isomers from direct soil analyses via diagnostic PAH adduct ions: [M+CH2Cl+CH3OH-HCl]+ or [M+CHCl2-HCl]+. Using these selective ions, CP-MIMS-LEI/CI was again shown to be rapid (15 soils/hr), sensitive (ng/g detection limits) and quantitatively comparable to gas chromatography-MS for PAH measurements (average percent difference of -9% across 9 PAHs in 8 soil samples). The results across this thesis present a compelling argument for direct, quantitative screening from complex samples using CP-MIMS-LEI/CI, particularly given the simple workflow and short analytical duty cycle.



Mass spectrometry, Direct mass spectrometry, Analytical chemistry, Environmental chemistry, Membrane introduction mass spectrometry, Electron Ionization, Chemical ionization, Liquid electron ionization, Organic contaminants, Direct analysis, Quantitative mass spectrometry, Quantitative analysis, Complex samples, In situ analysis