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Analysis of levoglucosan and its isomers in atmospheric samples by ion chromatography with electrospray lithium cationisation - triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometry

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 07:26 authored by Estrella Sanz RodriguezEstrella Sanz Rodriguez, Perron, MM, Strzelec, M, Bernadette ProemseBernadette Proemse, Andrew BowieAndrew Bowie, Brett PaullBrett Paull

Biomass burning (BB) emissions are a significant source of particles to the atmosphere, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, where the occurrence of anthropogenic and natural wild fires is common. These emissions can threaten human health through increased exposure, whilst simultaneously representing a significant source of trace metals and nutrients to the ocean. One well known method to track BB emissions is through monitoring the atmospheric concentration of specific monosaccharide anhydrides (MAs), specifically levoglucosan and its isomers, mannosan and galactosan. Herein, a new method for the determination of levoglucosan and its isomers in marine and terrestrial aerosol samples is presented, which delivers both high selectivity and sensitivity, through the coupling of ion chromatography and triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometry. Optimal chromatographic conditions, providing baseline separation for target anhydrosugars in under 8 min, were obtained using a Dionex CarboPac PA-1 column with an electrolytically generated KOH gradient. To improve the ionisation efficiency for MS detection, an organic make-up solvent was fed into the IC column effluent before the ESI source, and to further increase both sensitivity and selectivity, cationisation of levoglucosan was investigated by adding salts into the make-up solvent, namely, sodium, ammonium and lithium salts. Using positive lithium cationisation with 0.5 mM lithium chloride in methanol as the make-up solvent, delivered at a flow rate of 0.02 mL min–1, the levoglucosan response was improved by factors of 100 and 10, comparing to negative ionisation and positive sodium cationisation, respectively. Detection was carried out in SRM mode for quantitation and identification, achieving an instrumental LOD of 0.10, 0.12 and 0.5 µg L−1 for levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan, respectively. Finally, the method was applied to the analysis of 41 marine and terrestrial aerosol samples from Australia, its surrounding coastal waters and areas within the remote Southern Ocean, covering a large range of BB marker concentrations.


Publication title

Journal of Chromatography A



Article number









School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Air quality; Air quality