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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2006 May;17(5):661-71. Epub 2006 Mar 15.

Solvent-free MALDI-MS: developmental improvements in the reliability and the potential of MALDI in the analysis of synthetic polymers and giant organic molecules.

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Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA.


A dry sample preparation strategy was previously established as a new method for matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS), so-called solvent-free MALDI-MS. In this contribution, we examine systems that have been shown problematic with conventional solvent-based MALDI approaches. Problems frequently encountered are solubility, miscibility, and segregation effects during crystallization as a result of unfavorable analyte and matrix polarities. In all cases studied, solvent-free MALDI-MS simplified the measurement and improved the analysis. Solvent-free MALDI-MS enables more reliable results in well-known problematic systems such as polydimethylsiloxane with its segregation effects. However, even in highly compatible analyte/matrix systems such as polystyrene and dithranol, there were undesirable suppression effects when employing THF as solvent. Generally, the solvent-free method allows for more homogeneous analyte/matrix mixtures as well as higher shot-to-shot and sample-to-sample reproducibility. As a result, less laser power has to be applied, which yields milder MALDI conditions, reduced background signals, and provides better resolution of the analyte signals. Solvent-free MALDI-MS proved valuable for the characterization of nanosized material, e.g., fullereno-based structures, which indicated having an increased fragmentation-susceptibility. New analyte/matrix combinations (e.g., polyvinylpyrrolidone/dithranol) are accessible independent of solubility and compatibility in common solvents. An improved quantitation potential is recognized (e.g., insoluble polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon against soluble dendrite precursor). The rapid and easy measurement of industrial products demonstrates the solvent-free method capable for improved throughput analysis of a variety of compounds (e.g., poly(butylmethacrylate) diol) in routine industrial analysis. Hence, this new MALDI method leads to qualitative and quantitative improvements, making it a powerful tool for analytical purposes, which may also prove to be valuable in future automation attempts.

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