An Automated Method for Chemical Composition Analysis of Lubricant Base Oils by Using Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometry

  • Jeremy Manheim
  • Yuyang Zhang
  • Jyrki Viidanoja
  • Hilkka I. KenttämaaEmail author
Focus: Honoring Helmut Schwarzʻs Election to the National Academy of Sciences: Research Article


Since its invention in the 1950s, field ionization mass spectrometry (FI MS) has been, and currently is, the go-to technique employed by the petrochemical industry for the identification of the different types of nonvolatile compounds in their products. Unfortunately, FI MS has several inherent drawbacks, such as poor reproducibility. The performance of positive-ion mode atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry (APCI MS) with O2 gas as the sheath/auxiliary gas and a saturated hydrocarbon solvent/reagent was recently compared with that of FI MS and found to show promise as an alternative, highly reproducible method for lubricant base oil analysis. We report here on the automation of the APCI/O2/saturated hydrocarbon MS method. Isooctane was chosen as the optimal APCI solvent/reagent for base oil ionization due to the low level of fragmentation it provided for model compound mixtures. Three minutes was determined to be the shortest possible cleaning time between samples, regardless of the base oil viscosity. The total analysis time for each sample was 5 min. The reproducibility of the method was assessed by determining within-day and between-day precisions and total precision for hydrocarbon class distributions measured for three different base oils. All total precision values were found to be better than 6.2%, suggesting that the automated (+)APCI/O2/isooctane method is reproducible and robust.


Base oils APCI Linear quadrupole ion trap Automated Hydrocarbons Carbenium ions 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Neste for financial support for this project. We also thank Dr. Chunfen Jin for her mentorship and inspiration. We also would like to thank Tiina Laaksonen from Neste for her guidance throughout the project.

Supplementary material

13361_2019_2284_MOESM1_ESM.docx (264 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 263 kb)


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Copyright information

© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Technology CentreNeste CorporationPorvooFinland
  3. 3.Current address: Thermo Fisher ScientificVantaaFinland

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