Characterization of fulvic acids by liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry

Douglas B. Mawhinney, Fernando L. Rosario-Ortiz, Seungyun Baik, Brett J. Vanderford, Shane A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Fulvic acid standards from Suwannee River, Pony Lake, Elliot Soil, Waskish Peat, and Nordic Reservoir were characterized by liquid chromatography coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF-MS) operating in negative electrospray ionization mode. The method employed a commercially available stationary phase that resulted in a distinctive chromatographic peak for each of the fulvic acid samples that differed in width and retention time at peak maximum. The QTOF-MS, operating in TOF mode, revealed that the unique chromatographic peak shapes were the result of the relative fraction of hydrogen and oxygen contained in various fulvic acid components. Those species that contained larger amount of hydrogen displayed a larger mass defect and were retained longer on the LC column, indicating reduced polarity. This is supported by a reduction in the degree of fragmentation related to polar functional groups as the mass defect and retention time increased. Lastly, the analysis of even and odd mass (at m/z 1 greater) ion intensity ratios revealed a correlation to the percent nitrogen of the various standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1319-1324
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 27 2009


  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Humic substances
  • Natural organic matter
  • Time-of-flight mass spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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