Enhancement of compound selectivity using a radio frequency ion-funnel proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer: improved specificity for explosive compounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Peter Watts
  • D. Fraser Reich
  • Stephen J. Mullock
  • Clive A. Corlett
  • Stuart Cairns
  • Peter Hickey
  • Matthew Brookes


A key issue with any analytical system based on mass spectrometry with no initial separation of compounds is to have a high level of confidence in chemical assignment. This is particularly true for areas of security, such as airports, and recent terrorist attacks have highlighted the need for reliable analytical instrumentation. Proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry is a useful technology for these purposes because the chances of false positives are small owing to the use of a mass spectrometric analysis. However, the detection of an ion at a given m/z for an explosive does not guarantee that that explosive is present. There is still some ambiguity associated with any chemical assignment owing to the presence of isobaric compounds and, depending on mass resolution, ions with the same nominal m/z. In this article we describe how for the first time the use of a radio frequency ion-funnel (RFIF) in the reaction region (drift tube) of a proton transfer reaction-time-of-flight-mass spectrometer (PTR-ToF-MS) can be used to enhance specificity by manipulating the ion-molecule chemistry through collisional induced processes. Results for trinitrotoluene, dinitrotoluenes, and nitrotoluenes are presented to demonstrate the advantages of this new RFIF-PTR-ToF-MS for analytical chemical purposes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10624-10630
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number21
Early online date7 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016