The role of water vapor in transforming the thermodynamically preferred species of protonated benzocaine to the less favored protomer was investigated using helium-plasma ionization (HePI) in conjunction with ion-mobility mass spectrometry (IM-MS). The IM arrival-time distribution (ATD) recorded from a neat benzocaine sample desorbed to the gas phase by a stream of dry nitrogen and ionized by HePI showed essentially one peak for the O-protonated species. However, when water vapor was introduced to the enclosed ion source, within a span of about 150 ms the ATD profile changed completely to one dominated by the N-protonated species. Under spray-based ionization conditions, the nature and composition of the solvents have been postulated to play a decisive role in defining the manifested protomer ratios. In reality, the solvent vapors present in the ion source (particularly the ambient humidity) indirectly dictate the gas-phase ratio of the protomers. Evidently, the gas-phase protomer ratio established at the confinement of the ions is readjusted by the ion-activation that takes place during the transmission of ions to the vacuum. Although it has been repeatedly stated that ions can retain a “memory” of their solution structures because they can be kinetically trapped, and thereby represent their solution-based stabilities, we show that the initial airborne ions can undergo significant transformations in the transit through the intermediate vacuum zones between the ion source and the mass detector. In this context, we demonstrate that the kinetically trapped N-protomer of benzocaine can be untrapped by reducing the humidity of the enclosed ion source.
Journal of The American Society for Mass Spectrometry – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 21, 2017
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