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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

The relevant role of ion mobility separation in LC-HRMS based screening strategies for contaminants of emerging concern in the aquatic environment

Celma, Alberto; Ahrens, Lutz; Gago-Ferrero, Pablo; Hernandez, Felix; Lopez, Francisco; Lundqvist, Johan; Pitarch, Elena; Vicente Sancho, Juan; Wiberg, Karin; Bijlsma, Lubertus


Ion mobility separation (IMS) coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry (IMS-HRMS) is a promising technique for (non-)target/suspect analysis of micropollutants in complex matrices. IMS separates ionized compounds based on their charge, shape and size facilitating the removal of co-eluting isomeric/isobaric species. Additionally, IMS data can be translated into collision cross-section (CCS) values, which can be used to increase the identification reliability. However, IMS-HRMS for the screening of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) have been scarcely explored. In this study, the role of IMS-HRMS for the identification of CECs in complex matrices is highlighted, with emphasis on when and with which purpose is of use. The utilization of IMS can result in much cleaner mass spectra, which considerably facilitates data interpretation and the obtaining of reliable identifications. Furthermore, the robustness of IMS measurements across matrices permits the use of CCS as an additional relevant parameter during the identification step even when reference standards are not available. Moreover, an effect on the number of true and false identifications could be demonstrated by including IMS restrictions within the identification workflow. Data shown in this work is of special interest for environmental researchers dealing with the detection of CECs with state-of-the-art IMS-HRMS instruments.


Ion mobility; Screening workflow; Liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry; Collision cross section (CCS); Environmental analysis

Published in

2021, Volume: 280, article number: 130799