The use of LDI-TOF imaging mass spectroscopy to study heated coal with a temperature gradient incorporating the plastic layer and semi-coke

Rohan Stanger, Quang Anh Tran, Wei Xie, Nathan Smith, John Lucas, Jianglong Yu, Eric Kennedy, Michael Stockenhuber, Terry Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This work has used high range imaging mass spectrometry to study a coal sample that has undergone heating with a temperature gradient. A custom made hotplate was heated to 1000°C and the coal was allowed to heat naturally through conduction to produce a large thermal gradient typical of conditions in a coke oven. The sample was quenched, sectioned and analysed using laser desorption time of flight imaging mass spectrometry (LDI-TOF-IMS) to study the molecular changes that occur within the plastic layer and in the semi-coke. The raw coal was observed to have a molecular weight range between 500 and 20,000 Da with a peak occurring at 2000 Da. The plastic layer was observed to have a prevalence for increasing 500-1000 Da structures though this formed part of the larger molecular weight range. Resolidification of the plastic layer coincided with a rise in 4000 Da structures. The semi-coke spectrum had a series of repeating peaks separated by 24 Da extending from 1000 Da to 3000 Da. This was considered evidence of broad molecular ordering. A second phenomenon was observed in the semi-coke associated with low range molecular weights (50-300 Da). This appeared as high intensity signals in a molecular range typically considered as ion fragments (being too low in size to remain in the high vacuum environment). It was speculated that these low range structures may be associated with the coking of volatile tars exiting the hot-side of the plastic layer through high temperature semi-coke. Overall, this preliminary work provides a novel methodology to study the heating impacts during coking on a molecular level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Coking
  • Dimensional heating
  • Image analysis
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Pyrolysis

Cite this