Ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry has allowed the determination of elemental formulas of the compounds comprising crude oils. However, elucidating molecular structures remains an analytical challenge. Herein, we propose and demonstrate an approach combining ion mobility mass spectrometry (IM-MS), ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry, and theoretical collisional cross-section (CCS) calculations to determine the molecular structures of aromatic compounds found in crude oils. The approach is composed of three steps. First, chemical structures are suggested based on the elemental formulas determined from ultrahigh-resolution mass spectra. Second, theoretical CCS values are calculated based on these proposed structures. Third, the calculated CCS values of the proposed structures are compared with experimentally determined CCS values from IM-MS data to provide proposed structures. For proof of concept, 31 nonalkylated and short-chain alkyl (n < 5, (CH 2)n) aromatic compounds commonly observed in crude oils were analyzed. Theoretical and experimental CCS values matched within a 5% RMS error. This approach was then used to propose structures of compounds in selected m/z regions of crude oil samples. Overall, the combination of ion mobility mass spectrometry, ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry, and theoretical calculations was shown to be a useful tool for elucidating chemical structures of compounds in complex mixtures.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry