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Integrating the MasSpec Pen with Sub-Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization for Rapid Chemical Analysis and Forensic Applications

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journal contribution
posted on 19.05.2021, 13:33 by Clara L. Feider, Abigail N. Gatmaitan, Tim Hooper, Ashish Chakraborty, Prajwal Gowda, Emily Buchanan, Livia S. Eberlin
Analytical methods that allow rapid, sensitive, and specific chemical measurements are central to forensic analysis and essential to accelerating compound screening and confirmation. We have previously reported the development of the MasSpec Pen technology as an easy-to-use and disposable hand-held device integrated to a mass spectrometer for direct analysis and molecular profiling of biological samples. In this Technical Note, we describe a new apparatus that integrates the MasSpec Pen device with a subatmospheric pressure chemical ionization (sub-APCI) source and an ion trap mass spectrometer for detection and semiquantitative analysis of forensic-related compounds. Coupling the MasSpec Pen device to a sub-APCI source allowed semiquantitative analysis of the drugs cocaine and oxycodone, the agrochemicals atrazine and azoxystrobin, and the explosives trinitrotoluene and dinitroglycerin in under 20 s. Using chemical ionization, improved reproducibility and sensitivity for targeted chemical detection and compound identification was achieved while maintaining the user-friendly features of the hand-held MasSpec Pen device. Limits of detection in the high picogram to low nanogram range were obtained for the compounds analyzed, which are within the range of federal screening cutoffs and those reported for other ambient ionization MS techniques. Altogether, the MasSpec Pen sub-APCI system described enabled rapid and semiquantitative chemical analysis for forensic applications and could be further adapted and applied to other areas of chemical testing.