Matrix‐assisted laser desorption/ionization time‐of‐flight mass spectrometry (MALDI TOF MS) was used to analyze a series of synthetic organic ions bearing fixed multiple charges. Despite the multiple intrinsic charges, only singly charged ions were recorded in each case. In addition to the pseudo‐molecular ions formed by counterion adduction, deprotonation and electron capture, a number of fragment ions were also observed. Charge splitting by fragmentation was found to be a viable route for charge reduction leading to the formation of the observed singly charged fragment ions. Unlike multivalent metal ions, organic ions can rearrange and/or fragment during charge reduction. This fragmentation process will evidently complicate the interpretation of the MALDI MS spectrum. Because MALDI MS is usually considered as a soft ionization technique, the fragment ion peaks can easily be erroneously interpreted as impurities. Therefore, the awareness and understanding of the underlying MALDI‐induced fragmentation pathways is essential for a proper interpretation of the corresponding mass spectra. Due to the fragment ions generated during charge reduction, special care should be taken in the MALDI MS analysis of multiply charged ions. In this work, the possible mechanisms by which the organic ions bearing fixed multiple charges fragment are investigated. With an improved understanding of the fragmentation mechanisms, MALDI TOF MS should still be a useful technique for the characterization of organic ions with fixed multiple charges.
Full Access Link: Journal of Mass Spectrometry