Highly water-soluble hydroxylated fullerene derivatives are being investigated for a wide range of commercial products as well as for potential cytotoxicity. However, no analytical methods are currently available for their quantification at sub-ppm concentrations in environmental matrixes. Here, we report on the development and comparison of liquid chromatography-ultraviolet/ visible spectroscopy (LC-UV/vis) and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) based detection and quantification methods for commercial fullerols. We achieved good separation efficiency using an amide-type hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) column (plate number >2000) under isocratic conditions with 90% acetonitrile as the mobile phase. The method detection limits (MDLs) ranged from 42.8 ng/mL (UV detection) to 0.19 pg/mL (using MS with multiple reaction monitoring, MRM). Other MS measurement modes achieved MDLs of 125 pg/mL (single quad scan, Q1) and 1.5 pg/mL (multiple ion monitoring, MI). Each detection method exhibited a good linear response over several orders of magnitude. Moreover, we tested the robustness of these methods in the presence of Suvanee River fulvic acids (SRFA) as an example of organic matter commonly found in environmental water samples. While SRFA significantly interfered with UV- and Q1-based quantifications, the interference was relatively low using MI or MRM (relative error in presence of SRFA: 8.6% and 2.5%, respectively). This first report of a robust MS-based quantification method for modified fullerenes dissolved in water suggests the feasibility of implementing MS techniques more broadly for identification and quantification of fullerols and other water-soluble fullerene derivatives in environmental samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1777-1783
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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