Microprobe sampling - photo ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry for in situ chemical analysis of pyrolysis and combustion gases: Examination of the thermo-chemical processes within a burning cigarette.
A microprobe sampling device (μ-probe) has been developed for in situ on-line photo ionization mass spectrometric analysis of volatile chemical species formed within objects consisting of organic matter during thermal processing. With this approach the chemical signature occurring during heating, pyrolysis, combustion, roasting and charring of organic material within burning objects such as burning fuel particles (e.g., biomass or coal pieces), lit cigarettes or thermally processed food products (e.g., roasting of coffee beans) can be investigated. Due to its dynamic changes between combustion and pyrolysis phases the cigarette smoking process is particularly interesting and has been chosen as first application. For this investigation the tip of the μ-probe is inserted directly into the tobacco rod and volatile organic compounds from inside the burning cigarette are extracted and real-time analyzed as the glowing front (or coal) approaches and passes the μ-probe sampling position. The combination of micro-sampling with photo ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PI-TOFMS) allows on-line intrapuff-resolved analysis of species formation inside a burning cigarette. Monitoring volatile smoke compounds during cigarette puffing and smoldering cycles in this way provides unparalleled insights into formation mechanisms and their time-dependent change. Using this technique the changes from pyrolysis conditions to combustion conditions inside the coal of a cigarette could be observed directly. A comparative analysis of species formation within a burning Kentucky 2R4F reference cigarette with μ-probe analysis reveals different patterns and behaviors for nicotine, and a range of semi-volatile aromatic and aliphatic species.