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Front Chem. 2019 Jun 13;7:401. doi: 10.3389/fchem.2019.00401. eCollection 2019.

Compendium of the Reactions of H3O+ With Selected Ketones of Relevance to Breath Analysis Using Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry.

Author information

Institute for Breath Research, Fakultät für Chemie und Pharmazie, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Dornbirn, Austria.
Molecular Physics Group, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
IONICON Analytik Gesellschaft m.b.H., Innsbruck, Austria.
Institut für Ionenphysik und Angewandte Physik, Universität Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
Institute of Chemistry, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Jan Kochanowski University, Kielce, Poland.


Soft chemical ionization mass spectrometric techniques, such as proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS), are often used in breath analysis, being particularly powerful for real-time measurements. To ascertain the type and concentration of volatiles in exhaled breath clearly assignable product ions resulting from these volatiles need to be determined. This is difficult for compounds where isomers are common, and one important class of breath volatiles where this occurs are ketones. Here we present a series of extensive measurements on the reactions of H3O+ with a selection of ketones using PTR-MS. Of particular interest is to determine if ketone isomers can be distinguished without the need for pre-separation by manipulating the ion chemistry through changes in the reduced electric field. An additional issue for breath analysis is that the product ion distributions for these breath volatiles are usually determined from direct PTR-MS measurements of the compounds under the normal operating conditions of the instruments. Generally, no account is made for the effects on the ion-molecule reactions by the introduction of humid air samples or increased CO2 concentrations into the drift tubes of these analytical devices resulting from breath. Therefore, another motivation of this study is to determine the effects, if any, on the product ion distributions under the humid conditions associated with breath sampling. However, the ultimate objective for this study is to provide a valuable database of use to other researchers in the field of breath analysis to aid in analysis and quantification of trace amounts of ketones in human breath. Here we present a comprehensive compendium of the product ion distributions as a function of the reduced electric field for the reactions of H3O+. (H2O)n (n = 0 and 1) with nineteen ketones under normal and humid (100% relative humidity for 37 °C) PTR-MS conditions. The ketones selected for inclusion in this compendium are (in order of increasing molecular weight): 2-butanone; 2-pentanone; 3-pentanone; 2-hexanone; 3-hexanone; 2-heptanone; 3-heptanone; 4-heptanone; 3-octanone; 2-nonanone; 3-nonanone; 2-decanone; 3-decanone; cyclohexanone; 3-methyl-2-butanone; 3-methyl-2-pentanone; 2-methyl-3-pentanone; 2-methyl-3-hexanone; and 2-methyl-3-heptanone.


PTR-MS; breath analysis; fastGC; ketones; reduced electric field

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