Solid-phase microextraction low temperature plasma mass spectrometry for the direct and rapid analysis of chemical warfare simulants in complex mixtures
Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) is directly integrated with low temperature plasma ionisation mass spectrometry to rapidly detect organophosphate chemical warfare agent simulants and their hydrolysis products in chemical mixtures, including urine. In this sampling and ionization method, the fibre serves: (i) to extract molecules from their native environment, and (ii) as the ionization electrode that is used to desorb and ionize molecules directly from the SPME surface. By use of a custom fabricated SPME fibre consisting of a stainless steel needle coated with a Linde Type A (LTA) zeolitic microporous material and low temperature plasma mass spectrometry, protonated dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP), diethyl ethylphosphonate (DEEP) and pinacolyl methylphosphonic acid (PinMPA) can be detected at less than 100 ppb directly in water and urine. Organophosphates were not readily detected by this approach using an uncoated needle in negative control experiments. The use of the LTA coating significantly outperformed the use of a high alumina Zeolite Socony Mobil-5 (ZSM-5) coating of comparable thickness that is significantly less polar than LTA. By conditioning the LTA probe by immersion in an aqueous CuSO4 solution, the ion abundance for protonated DMMP increased by more than 300% compared to that obtained without any conditioning. Sample recovery values were between 96 and 100% for each analyte. The detection of chemical warfare agent analogues and hydrolysis products required less than 2 min per sample. A key advantage of this sampling and ionization method is that analyte ions can be directly and rapidly sampled from chemical mixtures, such as urine and seawater, without sample preparation or chromatography for sensitive detection by mass spectrometry. This ion source should prove beneficial for portable mass spectrometry applications because relatively low detection limits can be obtained without the use of compressed gases, fluid pumps, and lasers. Moreover, the ion source is compact, can be powered with a 10 V battery, and is tolerant of complex mixtures.