Center for Innovative Technology, Department of Chemistry, Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA. [Email]
Previous ion mobility (IM) studies have demonstrated that varying the drift gas composition can be used to enhance chemical selectivity and resolution, yet there are few drift gas studies aimed at achieving quantitatively reproducible mobility measurements. Here, we critically evaluate the conditions necessary to achieve reproducible collision cross section (CCS) measurements in pure drift gases (helium, nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide) using a commercial uniform field drift tube instrument. Optimal experimental parameters are assessed based on the convergence of CCS measurements to reproducible values which are compared with literature values. A suite of calibration standards with diverse masses, biological classes, and charge states are examined to assess chemical selectivity and resolution achievable in each drift gas. Results indicate nitrogen and argon perform similarly and are sufficient for most applications where high resolving power and high peak capacity are desired. Carbon dioxide exhibits more selectivity for resolving structurally heterogeneous compounds, which may be preferable in specific analyte pair separations. Helium demonstrated modest separation capabilities but has utility for comparison to theoretical values and previously published work. In drift gases other than nitrogen, pressure differentials up to 230 mTorr between the drift tube and upstream chamber were optimal for improving correlation to literature values, while in nitrogen, the recommended pressure differential of 150 mTorr was found appropriate. We present recommended experimental parameters as well as gas-specific CCS measurements for structurally homogeneous sets of analytes which are suitable for use by other laboratories as standards for purposes of instrument calibration and overall assessment of IM separation performance.