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Int J Ion Mobil Spectrom. 2013 Sep;16(3):217-227.

Differential mobility spectrometry with nanospray ion source as a compact detector for small organics and inorganics.

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Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109-8099.


Electrospray ionization (ESI) is an important tool in chemical and biochemical survey and targeted analysis in many applications. For chemical detection and identification electrospray is usually used with mass spectrometry (MS). However, for screening and monitoring of chemicals of interest in light, low power field-deployable instrumentation, an alternative detection technology with chemical selectivity would be highly useful, especially since small, lightweight, chip-based gas and liquid chromatographic technologies are being developed. Our initial list of applications requiring portable instruments includes chemical surveys on Mars, medical diagnostics based on metabolites in biological samples, and water quality analysis. In this report, we evaluate ESI-Differential Mobility Spectrometry (DMS) as a compact, low-power alternative to MS detection. Use of DMS for chemically-selective detection of ESI suffers in comparison with mass spectrometry because portable MS peak capacity is greater than that of DMS by 10X or more, but the development of light, fast chip chromatography offers compensating resolution. Standalone DMS provides the chemical selectivity familiar from DMS-MS publications, and exploits the sensitivity of ion detection. We find that sub-microliter-per-minute flows and a correctly-designed interface prepare a desolvated ion stream that enables DMS to act as an effective ion filter. Results for a several small organic biomarkers and metabolites, including citric acid, azelaic acid, n-hexanoylglycine, thymidine, and caffeine, as well as compounds such as dinitrotoluene and others, have been characterized and demonstrate selective detection. Water-quality-related halogen-containing anions, fluoride through bromate, contained in liquid samples are also isolated by DMS. A reaction-chamber interface is highlighted as most practical for portable ESI-DMS instrumentation.


DMS; FAIMS; differential ion mobility; electrospray; ion mobility; nanospray

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