Application Note ReView: AS201 – Fast Formaldehyde Analysis for the Process-Line and Laboratory Using Sift-MS


7th September 2022

Formaldehyde, high-speed, SIFT-MS,

formaldehyde, analysis, fast, high-speed


Application Note ReView: AS201 – Fast Formaldehyde Analysis for the Process-Line and Laboratory Using SIFT-MS


Formaldehyde is a very important compound industrially, and public exposure to formaldehyde is widespread through combustion, industrial and material emissions. According to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, formaldehyde is present in a wide variety of products including:

  • some plywood adhesives
  • abrasive materials
  • insulation
  • insecticides
  • embalming fluids.


The major sources of anthropogenic emissions of formaldehyde are:

  • motor vehicle exhaust
  • power plants
  • manufacturing plants that produce or use formaldehyde or substances that contain it (e.g., glues)
  • petroleum refineries
  • coking operations
  • incinerating
  • wood burning
  • tobacco smoke.

Widespread usage, plus its formation as a byproduct of combustion and various industrial processes, means that formaldehyde significantly impacts air quality in workplaces, homes, and the environment. Much has been written on formaldehyde’s role in photochemical smog formation, and its carcinogenic properties, particularly since being categorised as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.

It is therefore crucial that methods are available to analyse potential sources to low ppb v/v concentrations.

Traditional methods based on Gas Chromatography and/or Liquid Chromatography can be used to analyse formaldehyde, but they are off-line and require highly skilled laboratory personnel. This is because reliable, sensitive, and selective analysis of chemically diverse volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and inorganic gases cannot be achieved using traditional chromatographic techniques unless multiple analyses are invoked.

However, a more modern analytical technique – Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) – overcomes this limitation by eliminating chromatography and using highly controlled chemical ionization to achieve broad-spectrum, direct analysis of air and headspace.


syft, technologies, SIFT-MS, TD-SIFT-MS, high-throughput, btex, btex analysis, analysis


Selectivity in SIFT-MS is achieved by coupling mass spectrometry with ultrasoft chemical ionization: eight reagent ions are available and automatically switched by software control of a quadrupole mass spectrometer. The very diverse reaction mechanisms provided by the reagent ions provides detection of a very wide range of compounds, including chromatographically challenging ones such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfde. Rapid, direct analysis naturally lends itself to applications on the process-line and in the laboratory.

The paper illustrates the unique capabilities of SIFT-MS analysis by focusing on formaldehyde – a chromatographically challenging compound. Various analysis scenarios will be illustrated, including analysis of formaldehyde emissions in candle fames, polymer headspace, and direct air analysis from sample bags.

The App Note describes how the application of Selected Ion Flow Tube Mass Spectrometry (SIFT-MS) provides a breakthrough in formaldehyde analysis.


sift-ms, syft, chlorofrom speciation


SIFT-MS analyses formaldehyde direct from air to sub-part-per-billion-by-volume (ppbv) concentrations within seconds. By applying soft chemical ionization coupled with mass spectrometric detection, SIFT-MS provides new opportunities for formaldehyde detection in multiple applications, including process monitoring, fenceline monitoring, and emissions from polymers. SIFT-MS analysis is rapid, selective and sensitive, and can be carried out by non-technical personnel.


DOWNLOAD the full AS201 – Fast Formaldehyde Analysis for the Process-Line and Laboratory using SIFT-MS




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