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Publication Title

Journal of Mass Spectrometry








Mass spectrometry has recently played a key role in the understanding of natural organic matter (NOM) by providing molecular-level details about its composition. NOM, a complex assemblage of organic molecules present in natural waters and soils/sediments, has the ability to bind and transport anthropogenic materials. An improved understanding of its composition is crucial in order to understand how pollutants interact with NOM and how NOM cycles through global carbon cycles. In the past, low-resolution (> 3000) mass analyzers have offered some insights into the structure of NOM, but emerging ultrahigh resolution (> 200000) techniques such as electrospray ionization (ESI) coupled to Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS) have significantly advanced our knowledge of NOM chemistry. Here, a review of the recent literature on the advancements of NOM characterization and the applications of mass spectrometry to this central task is presented. Various methods for the analysis and display of the extremely complex mass spectra, such as the van Krevelen diagram and Kendrick mass defect analysis, are discussed. We also review tandem mass spectrometry techniques employed to gain structural information about NOM components. Finally, we show how ESI-FT-ICR-MS has been applied to examine specific issues that are important to the NOM scientific community, such as NOM reactivity, transport and fate, degradation, and existence of components, which are indicators of NOM origin. In general, ultrahigh resolution provided by FT-ICR-MS is essential for the complete separation of the thousands of peaks present in the complex NOM mixture and will clearly lead to additional future advancements in the areas of aquatic, soil, and analytical chemistry. Copyright (c) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


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Original Publication Citation

Sleighter, R. L., & Hatcher, P. G. (2007). The application of electrospray ionization coupled to ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry for the molecular characterization of natural organic matter. Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 42(5), 559-574. doi:10.1002/jms.1221


0000-0002-1606-1305 (Hatcher)