Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry of pitch fractions separated by planar chromatography

A. A. Herod, S. F. Zhang, D. M. Carter, M. Domin, M. J. Cocksedge, J. E. Parker, C. A. F. Johnson, P. John, G. P. Smith, B. R. Johnson, K. D. Bartle, R. Kandiyoti

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Molecular mass distributions of coal-tar pitch fractions separated by planar chromatography (P-C) have been compared by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry, carried out in the absence of added matrix. Solvent pairs used in the P-C separation were pyridine-acetonitrile, pyridine-N,N-dimethylformamide and tetrahydrofuran-toluene. Molecular complexity and average molecular masses were found to increase with decreasing mobilities of the fractions. UV-fluorescence spectroscopy showed shifts of peak intensities to longer wavelengths and decreasing quantum yields, suggesting the presence of progressively greater concentrations of large polynuclear aromatic systems with decreasing mobility of samples in P-C. Fractions immobile in pyridine gave MALDI mass spectra of low intensity, indicating that larger molecules are less easily desorbed or ionized. The observed similarity of upper-mass limits of planar-chromatographic fractions of different mobility is thought to suggest the presence of relatively large-molecular mass (MM) materials of variable polarity in coal-tar pitch. The results were consistent with earlier investigations showing the presence of high molecular mass materials in coal-derived liquids. MM-distributions determined by size exclusion chromatography (SEC) were also observed to increase with decreasing mobility of the fractions on P-C plates. This qualitative agreement with results from MALDI-MS indicates that reported shifts of polar molecules to shorter elution times in SEC (i.e. to apparently larger-MMs) were not of a sufficient magnitude to distort the relative ordering of MM-distributions of PC-fractions observed by SEC. A number of problems relating to the refinement of MALDI-MS determinations on complex mixtures are discussed. © 1996 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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