Desorption electrospray ionization (DESI), an established ambient ionization method in mass spectrometry (MS) for the analysis of organic compounds, is applied here to trace detection of inorganic salts, including inorganic oxidants. In-situ surface analysis of targeted compounds, including nitrogen-, halogen- and sulfur-salts, down to sub-nanogram levels, was performed using DESI-MS. Successful experiments were carried out in both the negative and the positive ion modes; simple anions and cations as well as small cluster ions were observed. Various surfaces are examined and surface porosity effects were briefly explored. Absolute detection limits on porous polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) of 120 pg (surface concentration 0.07 ng mm−2) and 50 pg (surface concentration 0.03 ng mm−2), were achieved for sodium chlorate and sodium perchlorate, respectively. The compounds of interest were examined in the presence of a hydrocarbon mixture to assess matrix effects: only a two- or three-fold decrease in the target ion intensity was observed. Commercial fireworks were analyzed to determine perchlorate salts in complex mixtures. This work demonstrates the potential applicability of ambient ionization mass spectrometry to forensic investigations involving improvised explosives. <alternatives> [...] </alternatives>
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