Applying a dynamic method to the measurement of ion mobility.

Abstract

A dynamic method is applied to measure the mobility of gas-phase ions in the dual ion funnel interface of the electrospray source of a quadrupole orthogonal time-of-flight mass spectrometer. In a new operational mode, a potential barrier was formed in the second ion funnel of the mass spectrometer and then progressively increased. In this region, a flow of gas drags the ions into the mass spectrometer while the electric force applied by the potential barrier decelerates them. Ions with lower mobility can be carried by the gas flow more easily than those with high mobility. Thus, electrical forces can block the more mobile ions more easily. Hence, the electric barrier formed in the ion funnel permits only ions below a certain mobility threshold to enter the mass spectrometer. When the barrier voltage is increased, this threshold moves from high to low mobilities. Ions with mobilities above the threshold cannot enter the mass spectrometer, and their signal decreases to zero. Thus, in a barrier voltage scan, mass spectrometric signals of ions sequentially disappear. Differentiation of these decreasing ion signal curves produces peaks from which an ion mobility spectrum can be reconstructed. Blocking voltages, i.e., the positions of the peaks on the barrier voltage scale are directly related to the mobility of these ions. An internal calibration using ions with known mobility values helps determine the unknown ion mobilities and allows calculation of ionic cross sections.

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