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Introducing mass spectrometry to first-year undergraduates: Analysis of caffeine and other components in energy drinks using paper-spray mass spectrometry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-161
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Mass Spectrometry
Early online date29 Sep 2016
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Sep 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 29 Sep 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2017


We describe the use of ambient ionization mass spectrometry in a freshman-level undergraduate class for the detection of caffeine and other components in several commercially available energy drinks (5-hour Energy, Starbucks Refreshers, Red Bull Sugarfree, and Coca Cola Classic). We use the technique of paper-spray mass spectrometry where a filter paper is used as a substrate on which a sample is directly applied and a high voltage is used to generate an electrospray of ions in ambient conditions which are then detected by a mass spectrometer. The purpose of this laboratory exercise is twofold: 1) to use the paper-spray method to determine the chemical composition of different types of commercially available energy drinks and 2) to perform tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) to demonstrate that the mass spectrometer can be used for structural analysis. This laboratory serves as an excellent means of introducing the beginning student to the concepts of charge, mass, and molecular structure. In addition to the freshmen general chemistry class, we also incorporated this lab into the introductory analytical chemistry class taught at the sophomore level with the inclusion of a third exercise where the usefulness of mass spectrometry for quantitative analysis is demonstrated by determining the concentration of caffeine in the energy drinks with deuterated caffeine as an internal standard.

    Research areas

  • Energy drinks, First-year undergraduates (freshmen), Paper-spray, Quantitative and qualitative analysis


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