Reliable, sensitive, and selective analysis of chemically diverse volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and inorganic gases cannot be achieved using traditional chromatographic techniques unless multiple analyses are invoked. A more recent analytical technique – Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS)1,2 – overcomes this limitation by eliminating chromatography and using highly controlled chemical ionization to achieve broad-spectrum, direct analysis of air and headspace. In this paper, the SIFT-MS technique will be introduced. Selectivity in SIFT-MS is achieved by coupling mass spectrometry with ultrasoft chemical ionization: eight reagent ions are available and automatically switched by software control of a quadrupole mass spectrometer. The very diverse reaction mechanisms provided by the reagent ions provides detection of a very wide range of compounds, including chromatographically challenging ones such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide. Rapid, direct analysis naturally lends itself to applications both on the process-line and in the laboratory. The paper will illustrate the unique capabilities of SIFT-MS analysis by focusing on formaldehyde – a chromatographically challenging compound. Various analysis scenarios will be illustrated, including analysis of formaldehyde emissions in candle flames, polymer headspace, and direct air analysis from sample bags.
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High-Speed Formaldehyde Analysis for the Process-Line and Laboratory: Sift-MS