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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2008 Feb;19(2):219-30. Epub 2007 Nov 1.

The analysis of polystyrene and polystyrene aggregates into the mega dalton mass range by cryodetection MALDI TOF MS.

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Center for Molecular Analysis, Department of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-2683, USA.


Mass spectra of atactic polystyrene were collected into the mega-dalton mass range with a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight (MALDI TOF) mass spectrometer, which incorporates a cryodetector comprised of an array of 16 superconducting tunnel junctions (STJ). The STJ cryodetector, theoretically, has no loss in signal response at any mass compared with the reduced signal found at high mass when using a conventional secondary-ionization detector. Since ion detection at high m/z is one of the fundamental limitations of mass spectrometry (MS), the cryodetector was used to explore the high m/z limit of the MALDI TOF technique for the analysis of two polymer types. Mass spectra were collected for polystyrene at Mn 170, 400, 900, and 2000 kDa and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) at Mn 62.6 kDa and 153.7 kDa. For polystyrene, the data showed a trend toward increased aggregation and charge state with mass. The Mn 2 MDa polystyrene data revealed a peak at m/z 2.2 MegaTh and a charge state analysis revealed that these ions were primarily polystyrene aggregates with a mass of approximately 4 MDa. This aggregate assignment was possible because the cryodetector response allows for the determination of a charge state up to about four. The contribution of each charge state for a selected peak can be determined in this fashion. This analysis revealed the preferential formation of doubly charged even-numbered aggregates over odd-numbered aggregates for high molecular mass polystyrene. A potential mechanism for the aggregation process for doubly charged species is discussed.

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