A study of the application of graphite MALDI to the analysis of lanthanides and deconvolution of the isobaric species observed†
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry has always suffered from matrix interference at low-masses making it an unsuitable method for the analysis of low molecular weight analytes. In recent years, there has been considerable interest in the use of graphite as a matrix. In this study, we demonstrate the application of colloidal graphite for the analysis of lanthanides in the positive ion mode. Positive ion mode is of academic interest as spectra are dominated by lanthanide cations, oxides, hydroxides and carbides with the metal having been reduced to oxidation state I, II or III. The ratios of the different ions are considered in terms of redox potentials of the lanthanides and rates of reaction with oxygen. Positive ion mode is shown to be useful as a rapid technique for confirming which metal(s) are present in a sample which can have an application in environmental monitoring, for example. Demonstration of a least squares approach to deconvolution is applied for the complete separation and relative quantification of the different isobaric species observed due to the complex isotope distributions of some lanthanides.