Identification of black carbon derived structures in a volcanic ash soil humic acid by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Academic Article uri icon


  • Electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS), coupled with cross-polarization magic angle spinning 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and Kendrick mass defect analysis, was used to study the molecular composition of an aromatic carbon-rich humic acid extracted from a dark black soil from Iwata, Japan. Black carbon, produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and organic matter, has been suggested as a major component of humic acids having intense peaks in the aromatic and carboxyl regions of the 13C NMR spectrum. Taking advantage of the high resolving power of FT-ICR MS to make precise formula assignments, three different types of highly carboxylated polycyclic aromatic compounds were identified in the sample: linearly fused aromatic structures, aromatic structures linked by carbon-carbon single bonds, and highly condensed aromatic structures. These carboxylated aromatic structures have a low mass defect in their mass spectra due to their abundance of oxygen and deficiency of hydrogen. This mass defect is observed in the vast majority of peaks present in the entire mass spectrum, differentiating them from structures that are hydrogen-rich (e.g., fatty acids, proteins, carbohydrates). Thus, we conclude that the bulk of the sample analyzed is comprised of these heavily carboxylated, hydrogen-deficient, condensed aromatic structures, features believed to be characteristic of black carbon-like material.

publication date

  • June 15, 2004