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Proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS): A research tool for online VOC analysis (2018)

ECTS credits:



Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Time of year: 6-13 June 2018

No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: 56 hours/150 hours

Capacity limit: 16 participants


Objectives of the course:

PTR-MS is a relatively new technique for rapid or online analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOC). PTR-MS has found wide application over the past ~10 years for analysis of environmental problems, e.g. in studies of atmospheric processes and gaseous emissions, as well as in environmental engineering, food/flavour science, materials science, and other areas where online monitoring of VOC is valuable. PTR-MS is characterized by fast response, high sensitivity (detection limits in the ppt range), and high selectivity. In addition, reliable quantitative results are obtained by an internal calibration system. PTR-MS has been applied for analyzing volatile compounds in aqueous matrices as well.

This course will focus on hands-on as well as practical experience in using PTR-MS. This will allow students to understand the function of PTR-MS and to analyze the relevance of PTR-MS for different purposes incl. aspects of their own research project.

In this course, each student will select a topic of relevance to their own PhD project. Prior to the course, the student will carry out a literature search of the topic and present the results of this on the first day of the course. During the course, the student will set up a small-scale laboratory experiment with a selected matrix depending on their field of research. If the number of students exceeds 8, the experimental work will be done in groups of 2 students. The matrix and measurements will be selected and prepared beforehand together with the teachers. The individual experimental work will be supplemented with common hands-on exercises concerning calibration, optimization and maintenance/troubleshooting.

The students will learn to deal with large PTR-MS datasets and apply statistical methods for this purpose. Finally, the students will also be directed through the theory of proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry including theoretical methods for calculating sensitivity.


Learning outcomes and competences:

At completion of the course, the students should be able to:

• Use PTR-MS and optimize measurement parameters for a specific purpose

• Describe the theory of PTR-MS including ionization processes

• Optimize measurement parameters of an instrument

• Calibrate PTR-MS with reference standards and explain the significance of sources of error

• Handling of large PTR-MS datasets

• Apply theory to calculate proton transfer rate constants

• Analyze complex analytical results incl. fragmentation and isotopic patterns

• Analyze the relevance of PTR-MS for specific analytical challenges

• Discuss advantages and disadvantages of PTR-MS in different applications


Compulsory programme:

Perform the laboratory exercises, participate actively at lectures, and deliver 2 reports and one oral presentation.


Course contents:

Before the course commences, each student must write and submit a short report (5-10 pages) based on a PTR-MS literature survey of relevance for the student’s topic.

The on-campus part of the course will consist primarily of lectures, case-based exercises and hands-on laboratory work individually or in teams.

Following the on-campus part of the course, the students must write an individual report. This project can be related to application of PTR-MS to the topic of their PhD project.

Course termination will be an oral presentation of the report, and an active participation in discussion of the topics.



Recommended, but not mandatory: A MSc degree in Chemistry, Microbiology, Chem. Eng., Physics, Biology, Env. Eng. or similar. Participants will be assessed on an individual basis with respect to necessary skills and relevance. Some lab experience is recommended.


Name of lecturer:

Associate Professor Anders Feilberg, Department of Engineering, Aarhus University, Denmark

E-mail: af@eng.au.dk

Phone: +45 30896099


Additional teachers will be confirmed later.


Type of course/teaching methods:

Lectures, problem based case studies, laboratory experiments and reporting



The course will consist of general lectures, laboratory exercises, theoretical exercises and discussions of scientific literature.

Review papers to be included e.g.:

De Gouw, J. and Warneke C. (2007) Mass Spectrometry Reviews Vol. 26 p. 223-257

Blake, R. S., Monks, P. S. and Ellis, A. M. (2009) Chemical Reviews Vol. 109 p. 861-896


In addition, a number of scientific papers will be selected based on the research areas of the participating PhD-students.


Course homepage:

A course homepage on Blackboard will be prepared


Course assessment:

The course will be evaluated as passed/not-passed based on the course participation, the reports, and the oral presentations of the reports.



Department of Engineering



6-13 June 2018



Aarhus University, Finlandsgade 12, 8200 Aarhus N



Deadline for registration 15 May 2018.

For registration: send an e-mail to af@eng.au.dk

If you have any questions, please contact Anders Feilberg, e-mail: af@eng.au.dk

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