Microplasma discharge vacuum ultraviolet photoionization source for atmospheric pressure ionization mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2014 Sep;25(9):1557-64. doi: 10.1007/s13361-014-0937-5. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


In this paper, we demonstrate the first use of an atmospheric pressure microplasma-based vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) photoionization source in atmospheric pressure mass spectrometry applications. The device is a robust, easy-to-operate microhollow cathode discharge (MHCD) that enables generation of VUV photons from Ne and Ne/H(2) gas mixtures. Photons were detected by excitation of a microchannel plate detector and by analysis of diagnostic sample ions using a mass spectrometer. Reactive ions, charged particles, and metastables produced in the discharge were blocked from entering the ionization region by means of a lithium fluoride window, and photoionization was performed in a nitrogen-purged environment. By reducing the output pressure of the MHCD, we observed heightened production of higher-energy photons, making the photoionization source more effective. The initial performance of the MHCD VUV source has been evaluated by ionizing model analytes such as acetone, azulene, benzene, dimethylaniline, and glycine, which were introduced in solid or liquid phase. These molecules represent species with both high and low proton affinities, and ionization energies ranging from 7.12 to 9.7 eV.