High-performance liquid chromatography coupled to direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry: investigations on gradient elution and influence of complex matrices on signal intensities.
Direct analysis in real time (DART) time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS) has been tested for its suitability as a detector for gradient elution HPLC. Thereby a strong dependency of signal intensity on the amount of organic solvent present in the eluent could be observed. Adding a make-up liquid (iso-propanol) post-column to the HPLC effluent greatly enhanced detection limits for early eluting compounds. Limits of detection achieved employing this approach were in the range of 7-27 μg L(-1) for the parabene test mixture and 15-87 μg L(-1) for the pharmaceuticals. In further investigations DART ionization was compared to several other widely used atmospheric pressure ionization methods with respect to signal suppression phenomena occurring in when samples with problematic matrices are analyzed. For this purpose extracts from environmental and waste water samples were selected as model matrices which were subsequently spiked with a set of six substances commonly present in personal care products as well as six pharmaceuticals at concentration levels between 100 μg L(-1) and 500 μg L(-1) corresponding to 100 ng L(-1) and 500 ng L(-1) respectively in the original sample. With ionization suppression of less than 11% for most analytes investigated, DART ionization showed similar to even somewhat superior behavior compared to atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) and atmospheric pressure photo ionization (APPI) for the Danube river water extract; for the more challenging matrix of the sewage plant effluent extract DART provided better results with ion suppression being less than 11% for 9 out of 12 analytes while values for APCI were lying between 20% and >90%. Electrospray ionization (ESI) was much more affected by suppression effects than DART with values between 26% and 80% for Danube river water; in combination with the sewage plant effluent matrix suppression >50% was observed for all analytes. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.