Leidenfrost Phenomenon-assisted Thermal Desorption (LPTD) and Its Application to Open Ion Sources at Atmospheric Pressure Mass Spectrometry
This work describes the development and application of a new thermal desorption technique that makes use of the Leidenfrost phenomenon in open ion sources at atmospheric pressure for direct mass spectrometric detection of ultratrace levels of illicit, therapeutic, and stimulant drugs, toxicants, and peptides (molecular weight above 1 kDa) in their unaltered state from complex real world samples without or with minor sample pretreatment. A low temperature dielectric barrier discharge ion source was used throughout the experiments and the analytical figures of merit of this technique were investigated. Further, this desorption technique coupled with other ionization sources such as electrospray ionization (ESI) and dc corona discharge atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) in open atmosphere was also investigated. The use of the high-resolution `Exactive Orbitrap' mass spectrometer provided unambiguous identification of trace levels of the targeted compounds from complex mixtures and background noise; the limits of detection for various small organic molecules and peptides treated with this technique were at the level of parts per trillion and 10-9 M, respectively. The high sensitivity of the present technique is attributed to the spontaneous enrichment of analyte molecules during the slow evaporation of the solvent, as well as to the sequential desorption of molecules from complex mixtures based on their volatilities. This newly developed desorption technique is simple and fast, while molecular ions are observed as the major ions.