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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2013 Jul;24(7):1116-22. doi: 10.1007/s13361-013-0636-7. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

Minimization of fragmentation and aggregation by laser desorption laser ionization mass spectrometry.

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Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5080, USA.


Measuring average quantities in complex mixtures can be challenging for mass spectrometry, as it requires ionization and detection with nearly equivalent cross-section for all components, minimal matrix effect, and suppressed signal from fragments and aggregates. Fragments and aggregates are particularly troublesome for complex mixtures, where they can be incorrectly assigned as parent ions. Here we study fragmentation and aggregation in six aromatic model compounds as well as petroleum asphaltenes (a naturally occurring complex mixture) using two laser-based ionization techniques: surface assisted laser desorption ionization (SALDI), in which a single laser desorbs and ionizes solid analytes; and laser ionization laser desorption mass spectrometry (L(2)MS), in which desorption and ionization are separated spatially and temporally with independent lasers. Model compounds studied include molecules commonly used as matrices in single laser ionization techniques such as matrix assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI). We find significant fragmentation and aggregation in SALDI, such that individual fragment and aggregate peaks are typically more intense than the parent peak. These fragment and aggregate peaks are expected in MALDI experiments employing these compounds as matrices. On the other hand, we observe no aggregation and only minimal fragmentation in L(2)MS. These results highlight some advantages of L(2)MS for analysis of complex mixtures such as asphaltenes.

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