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Detection of arrival time shifts between ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) separations can limit achievable resolving power (Rp), particularly when multiple separations are summed or averaged, as commonly practiced in IMS. Such variations can be apparent in higher Rp measurements and are particularly evident in long path length traveling wave structures for lossless ion manipulations (SLIM) IMS due to their typically much longer separation times. Here, we explore data processing approaches employing single value alignment (SVA) and nonlinear dynamic time warping (DTW) to correct for variations between IMS separations, such as due to pressure fluctuations, to enable more effective spectrum summation for improving Rp and detection of low-intensity species. For multipass SLIM IMS separations, where narrow mobility range measurements have arrival times that can extend to several seconds, the SVA approach effectively corrected for such variations and significantly improved Rp for summed separations. However, SVA was much less effective for broad mobility range separations, such as obtained with multilevel SLIM IMS. Changes in ions’ arrival times were observed to be correlated with small pressure changes, with approximately 0.6% relative arrival time shifts being common, sufficient to result in a loss of Rp for summed separations. Comparison of the approaches showed that DTW alignment performed similarly to SVA when used over a narrow mobility range but was significantly better (providing narrower peaks and higher signal intensities) for wide mobility range data. We found that the DTW approach increased Rp by as much as 115% for measurements in which 50 IMS separations over 2 s were summed. We conclude that DTW is superior to SVA for ultra-high-resolution broad mobility range SLIM IMS separations and leads to a large improvement in effective Rp, correcting for ion arrival time shifts regardless of the cause, as well as improving the detectability of low-abundance species. Our tool is publicly available for use with universal ion mobility format (.UIMF) and text (.txt) files.


Originally published in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 2021 Apr 7; 32(4): 996–1007.

DOI: 10.1021/jasms.1c00005

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