While reversed-phase (RP) liquid chromatography can separate a wide range of analytes, for strongly acidic compounds such as environmentally relevant dialkyl phosphates (DAPs), this remains a challenge because they have low affinity for standard RP columns or they exhibit inferior peak shapes. Mixed-mode chromatographic (MMC) columns, which contain both RP and ion-exchange functionalities, can address these resolution problems. However, using current MMC separation approaches, analyte peaks are relatively broad as compared to conventional RP chromatography. Herein we present an enhanced MMC-based UHPLC/ESI-MS method for the analysis of DAPs. In contrast to commonly available MMC-based methods, we applied the MMC Luna® Omega PS C18 column that was conditioned by 0.1% formic acid and equilibrated with the initial mobile phase before sample injection. This conditioning step tremendously improved the retention and separation of the DAPs, especially for those with high water solubility and shorter carbon chain lengths. Using water/methanol (95 v/5 v) and ammonium acetate in methanol as the mobile phases, nine DAPs could be baseline resolved with very sharp peaks, including the shorter-chain dimethyl phosphate, diethyl phosphate and bis(2-chloroethyl) phosphate. Other columns were examined to facilitate method optimization, and to identify stationary phases with the ability to separate DAPs as well as to elucidate the retention and separation mechanisms. With this novel UHPLC and post-column dication ion-pairing ESI-MS/MS method, instrumental detection limits as low as 0.01 ng/mL level were achieved. Representing other strongly acidic analytes, the short-chain perfluoroalkyl acid, perfluorobutyl sulfonic acid could also be analyzed with this method.

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Keywords Dialkyl phosphate, Mixed-mode chromatography, MMC, UHPLC-MS/MS
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chroma.2017.12.069
Journal Journal of Chromatography A
Chu, S. (Shaogang), & Letcher, R.J. (2018). A mixed-mode chromatographic separation method for the analysis of dialkyl phosphates. Journal of Chromatography A. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2017.12.069