Rapid identification of stabilisers in polypropylene using time-of-flight mass spectrometry and DART® as ion source

Authors: Manuela Haunschmidt, Christian W. Klampfl, Wolfgang Buchberger, Robert Hertsens
Analyst 2010, Dec, 10, 135(1), 80-85


A method for analysing plastic samples without any sample pretreatment using direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (DART®-MS) was developed. DART®-MS allows the direct, simple and rapid identification of polymer additives in plastic products. To demonstrate the suitability of DART®-MS for the detection of a wide range of commonly employed stabilising agents, a test set of 21 stabilisers was selected. In a first step standard solutions of these stabilisers in toluene as well as toluene-extracts from polymer samples were analysed. Subsequently, to prove the applicability of the developed DART®-MS method also for the direct analysis of plastic products, samples of polypropylene containing a range of stabilisers were prepared using a lab-scale compounder. Polymer samples were cut into 0.5 cm wide pieces and directly placed into the DART® ion source. Focusing on the DART® ionisation, several parameters like discharge needle potential, potential of the grid electrode and the discharge electrode, the heater temperature and the gas flow had to be varied to guarantee optimum results. Both positive and negative ionisation was tested, whereby the positive ion mode led to higher signal intensities for all analytes. Determination of accurate masses to improve the certainty in signal assignment could be achieved by using PEG 600 as an internal standard for mass calibration. The developed method allowed the detection of all selected additives (including some of their degradation products) in real polymer samples.