Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
27 May 2015
Research article |  | 27 May 2015

Comparison of GC/time-of-flight MS with GC/quadrupole MS for halocarbon trace gas analysis

J. Hoker, F. Obersteiner, H. Bönisch, and A. Engel

Abstract. We present the application of time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF MS) for the analysis of halocarbons in the atmosphere after cryogenic sample preconcentration and gas chromatographic separation. For the described field of application, the quadrupole mass spectrometer (QP MS) is a state-of-the-art detector. This work aims at comparing two commercially available instruments, a QP MS and a TOF MS, with respect to mass resolution, mass accuracy, stability of the mass axis and instrument sensitivity, detector sensitivity, measurement precision and detector linearity. Both mass spectrometers are operated on the same gas chromatographic system by splitting the column effluent to both detectors. The QP MS had to be operated in optimised single ion monitoring (SIM) mode to achieve a sensitivity which could compete with the TOF MS. The TOF MS provided full mass range information in any acquired mass spectrum without losing sensitivity. Whilst the QP MS showed the performance already achieved in earlier tests, the sensitivity of the TOF MS was on average higher than that of the QP MS in the "operational" SIM mode by a factor of up to 3, reaching detection limits of less than 0.2 pg. Measurement precision determined for the whole analytical system was up to 0.2% depending on substance and sampled volume. The TOF MS instrument used for this study displayed significant non-linearities of up to 10% for two-thirds of all analysed substances.