Student: Madeline C. Roach, Undergraduate Student in Chemistry, University of Northern Iowa
Research Mentor: Joshua Sebree
GC/QQQ Limits of Detection for Biomolecules in Abiotic Aerosols
Many groups have attempted to create biological compounds from prebiological atmospheres, such as the reducing atmospheres of Titan and the Early Earth. This process comes with many obstacles, the largest being working with and characterizing lab generated aerosols, the large number of species formed, and the limited sample amounts. With that in mind, we have worked to develop a new method for analyzing aerosols. We chose to take advantage of the acidic hydrogens found in many prebiotic molecules and derivatize them with MTBSTFA. This allows for selective solvation of only the derivatized compounds. These solvated compounds are then injected into a GC-MS/MS triple-quad operating in trapping mode on the first quadrupole. The combination of triple-quad analysis and derivitization has allowed for the development of an extremely sensitive and selective method for detecting prebiotic molecules. Using this method, we have been able to detect as little as 40 femtomoles of derivitized compounds. We also were able to distinguish between compounds found in plasma generated aerosols and photochemically generated aerosols.