Many chemical reactions of ionic species occur in solution but understanding them in detail is complicated by the presence of solvent molecules and counter ions. Mass spectrometry offers an opportunity to examine ionic reactions in a pristine gas phase environment where solvent molecules and counter ions are absent. Over the past decade we have uses mass spectrometry based techniques to understand the fundamental reactivity of ionic species derived from biomolecules as well as organic, organoelement, organometallic and inorganic systems (a “grand tour” of the periodic table!).
Since arriving at Melbourne, we have successfully modified a commercial quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer (Finnegan LCQ) to allow gas phase ion-molecule reactions of ions generated via electrospray ionisation (ESI) to be examined. This instrument takes advantage of the “treasure trove” of interesting ions which can be formed via ESI as well as the multistage mass spectrometry (MSn) capabilities of the ion trap to provide a powerful “complete gas phase chemical laboratory” in which ions can be manipulated and studied in a sequence of reactions. This has lead to a broad research program at Melbourne to study the fundamental reactivity of a wide range of ions produced via ESI including: transition metal ions and their complexes, organic ions, organometallics, and biomolecules. Benefits arising from these studies range from a deeper understanding of important industrial chemical processes such as the oxidation of alcohols to improving the applications of mass spectrometry in the blossoming area of Proteomics.
More recently, the School of Chemistry has taken delivery of an ARC Lief funded FT-MS which is capable of performing ion-electron reactions.