Detection of volatile organic compounds in breath using thermal desorption electrospray ionization-ion mobility-mass spectrometry

A thermal desorption unit has been interfaced to an electrospray ionization-ion mobility-time-of-flight mass spectrometer. The interface was evaluated using a mixture of six model volatile organic compounds which showed detection limits of <1 ng sample loaded onto a thermal desorption tube packed with Tenax, equivalent to sampled concentrations of 4 μg L−1. Thermal desorption profiles were observed for all of the compounds, and ion mobility-mass spectrometry separations were used to resolve the probe compound responses from each other. The combination of temperature programmed thermal desorption and ion mobility improved the response of selected species against background ions. Analysis of breath samples resulted in the identification of breath metabolites, based on ion mobility and accurate mass measurement using siloxane peaks identified during the analysis as internal lockmasses.