Analysis of supramolecular complexes of 3-methylxanthine with field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry combined with mass spectrometry

Miniaturised field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS), combined with mass spectrometry (MS), has been applied to the study of self-assembling, non-covalent supramolecular complexes of 3-methylxanthine (3-MX) in the gas phase. 3-MX forms stable tetrameric complexes around an alkali metal (Na+, K+) or ammonium cation, to generate a diverse array of complexes with single and multiple charge states. Complexes of (3-MX)n observed include: singly charged complexes where n = 1-8 and 12 and doubly charged complexes where n = 12-24. The most intense ions are those associated with multiples of tetrameric units, where n = 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24. The effect of dispersion field on the ion intensities of the self-assembled complexes indicates some fragmentation of higher order complexes within the FAIMS electrodes (in-FAIMS dissociation), as well as in-source collision induced dissociation within the mass spectrometer. FAIMS-MS enables charge state separation of supramolecular complexes of 3-MX and is shown to be capable of separating species with overlapping mass-to-charge ratios. FAIMS selected transmission also results in an improvement in signal-to-noise ratio for low intensity complexes and enables the visualisation of species undetectable without FAIMS.