High-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry of humic and fulvic acids: improvements and comparisons. Academic Article uri icon


  • Full structural characterization of complex mixtures such as humic acid extracts has been elusive because of insufficient compound resolution with conventional techniques. Using electrospray ionization coupled with Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry, we were able to resolve individual compounds within humic and fulvic acid mixtures (mass resolving power approximately 80000 at 300 m/z). We examined two samples in detail: (1) dissolved organic matter (primarily fulvic acids) from Suwannee River, GA, and (2) a humic acid extract from a degraded wood collected on Mt. Rainier, WA. Sample conditions (such as solvent, pH, and concentration) and instrument parameters (such as source voltages, trapping potentials, and excitation parameters) were optimized to yield the highest mass resolving power with the least mass discrimination in positive ion mode. High resolving power was achieved with low ion densities combined with coadding numerous scans. The increased resolution allowed molecular-level comparisons of the two samples which in turn could be used to estimate the relative similarity of individual compound distribution as well as an indication of the dominant diagenetic processes in the two source environments.

publication date

  • January 15, 2002