Molecular beam mass spectrometry with tunable vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) synchrotron radiation
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Molecular beam mass spectrometry with tunable vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) synchrotron radiation


Tunable soft ionization coupled to mass spectroscopy is a powerful method to investigate isolated molecules, complexes and clusters and their spectroscopy and dynamics.[1-4] Fundamental studies of photoionization processes of biomolecules provide information about electronic structure of these systems. Furthermore determinations of ionization energies and other properties of biomolecules in the gas phase are not trivial, and these experiments provide a platform to generate these data. We have developed a thermal vaporization technique coupled with supersonic molecular beams that provides a gentle way to transport these species into the gas phase. Judicious combination of source gas and temperature allows for formation of dimers and higher clusters of the DNA bases. The focus of this particular work is on the effects of non-covalent interactions, i.e., hydrogen bonding, stacking, and electrostatic interactions, on the ionization energies and proton transfer of individual biomolecules, their complexes and upon micro-hydration by water.[1, 5-9] We have performed experimental and theoretical characterization of the photoionization dynamics of gas-phase uracil and 1,3-methyluracil dimers using molecular beams coupled with synchrotron radiation at the Chemical Dynamics Beamline[10] located at the Advanced Light Source and the experimental details are visualized here. This allowed us to observe the proton transfer in 1,3-dimethyluracil dimers, a system with pi stacking geometry and with no hydrogen bonds[1]. Molecular beams provide a very convenient and efficient way to isolate the sample of interest from environmental perturbations which in return allows accurate comparison with electronic structure calculations[11, 12]. By tuning the photon energy from the synchrotron, a photoionization efficiency (PIE) curve can be plotted which informs us about the cationic electronic states. These values can then be compared to theoretical models and calculations and in turn, explain in detail the electronic structure and dynamics of the investigated species [1, 3].

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