Mass spectrometric studies of non-covalent compounds: why supramolecular chemistry in the gas phase?
Supramolecular chemistry has progressed quite a long way in recent decades. The examination of non-covalent bonds became the focus of research once the paradigm that the observed properties of a molecule are due to the molecule itself was revised, and researchers became aware of the often quite significant influence of the environment. Mass spectrometry and gas-phase chemistry are ideally suited to study the intrinsic properties of a molecule or a complex without interfering effects from the environment, such as solvation and the effects of counterions present in solution. A comparison of data from the gas phase, i.e. the intrinsic properties, with results from condensed phase, i.e. the properties influenced by the surroundings of the molecule, can consequently contribute significantly to the understanding of non-covalent bonds. This review provides insight into the often-underestimated power of mass spectrometry for the investigation of supramolecules. Through example studies, several aspects are discussed, including determination of structure in solution and the gas phase, ion mobility studies to reveal the formation of zwitterionic structures, stereochemical issues, analysis of reactivity of supramolecular compounds in the condensed and in the gas phase, and the determination of thermochemical data.