Separation and detection of aqueous atmospheric aerosol mimics using supercritical fluid chromatography–mass spectrometry
Atmospheric particles contain thousands of compounds with many different functional groups and a wide range of polarities. Typical separation methods for aqueous atmospheric systems include reverse-phase liquid chromatography or derivatization of analytes of interest followed by gas chromatography. This study introduces supercritical fluid chromatography–mass spectrometry as a separation method for the methylglyoxal–ammonium sulfate reaction mixture (a proxy for aqueous atmospheric aerosol mimics). Several column compositions, mobile-phase modifiers, and column temperatures were examined to determine their effect on separation and optimum conditions for separation. Polar columns such as the Viridis UPC2™ BEH column combined with a mobile-phase gradient of carbon dioxide and methanol provided the best separation of compounds in the mixture and, when coupled to an electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometer, allowed for detection of several new masses in the methylglyoxal–ammonium sulfate reaction mixture as well as the possible identification of several isomers. This analysis method can be extended to other aqueous aerosol mimics, including the mixtures of other aldehydes or organic acids with ammonium or small amines.