Hydrogen bonds are among the most important interactions involved in selective complexation in host—guest chemistry. In this study a variety of hydrogen-bonded crown ether/ammonium ion complexes are generated in the gas phase by association reactions between an amine substrate and a polyether, one of which is initially protonated, and stabilized by many collisions in the chemical ionization source of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer or in a quadrupole ion trap. The nature of the hydrogen-bonding interactions of the ion complexes are evaluated by comparison of their collision-activated dissociation spectra. After collisional activation, those complexes that are weakly bound dissociate to form intact protonated polyether molecules and/or ammonium ions by simple cleavages of the hydrogen-bond association interactions. In contrast, those complexes strongly bound by multiple hydrogen bonds dissociate not only to the protonated polyether and/or ammonium ions but also by extensive covalent bond cleavage of the protonated ether skeleton. This latter type of dissociation behavior suggests that the polyether/ammonium ion complexes may be sufficiently strongly bound that surpassing the high barrier to decomposition results in formation of internally excited polyether molecules that may then undergo subsequent fragmentation by skeletal cleavages. Moreover, complexes involving multiple hydrogen bonds may have slower dissociation kinetics, allowing competition from fast dissociation processes that have substantial energy barriers.
Journal of the American society for mass spectrometry 5, pp.260-273