Evaluation of a New Vocus Reagent-Ion Source and Focusing Ion-Molecule Reactor for use in Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass Spectrometry

13 June 2018, Version 1


We evaluate the performance of a new chemical ionization source called Vocus, consisting of a discharge reagent-ion source and focusing ion-molecule reactor (FIMR) for use in protontransfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF) measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air. The reagent ion source uses a low-pressure discharge. The FIMR consists of a glass tube with a resistive coating, mounted inside a radio-frequency (RF) quadrupole. The axial electric field is used to enhance ion collision energies and limit cluster ion formation. The RF field focuses ions to the central axis of the reactor and improves the detection efficiency of product ions. Ion trajectory calculations demonstrate the mass-dependent focusing of ions and enhancement of the ion collision energy by the RF field, in particular for the lighter ions. Product ion signals are increased by a factor of 10 when the RF field is applied (5,000-18,000 cps ppbv-1), improving measurement precision and detection limits while operating at very similar reaction conditions as traditional PTR instruments. Due to the high water mixing ratio in the FIMR, we observe no dependence of the sensitivity on ambient sample humidity. In this work, the Vocus is interfaced to a TOF mass analyzer with a mass resolving power up to 14,000, which allows clear separation of isobaric ions, observed at nearly every nominal mass when measuring ambient air. Measurement response times are determined for a range of ketones with saturation vapor concentrations down to 5×104 μg m-3 and compare favorably with previously published results for a PTR-MS instrument.


Mass Spectrometry
VOC measurements
analytical chemistry
Environmental monitoring
trace gas measurement
mass spectrometry instrumentation

Supplementary materials



Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.