Application of Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry in deciphering molecular composition of soil organic matter: A review

Xiaoxiao Zhang, Zhonglin Chen, Xiaoyu Huo, Jing Kang, Shenxin Zhao, Yutao Peng, Fengxia Deng, Jimin Shen, Wei Chu

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Swiftly deciphering soil organic matter (SOM) composition is critical for research on soil degradation and restoration. Recent advances in analytical techniques (e.g., optical methods and mass spectrometry) have expanded our understanding of the composition, origin, and evolution of SOM. In particular, the use of Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometers (FTICR-MS) makes it possible to interpret SOM compositions at the molecular level. In this review, we discuss extraction, enrichment, and purification methods for SOM using FTICR-MS analysis; summarize ionization techniques, FTICR-MS mechanisms, data analysis methods, and molecular compositions of SOM in different environments (providing new insights into its origin and evolution); and discuss factors affecting its molecular diversity. Our results show that digenesis, combustion, pyrolysis, and biological metabolisms jointly contribute to the molecular diversity of SOM molecules. The SOM thus formed can further undergo photodegradation during transportation from land to fresh water (and subsequently oceans), resulting in the formation of dissolved organic matter (DOM). Better understanding the molecular features of DOM therefore accelerates our understanding of SOM evolution. In addition, we assess the degradation potential of SOM in different environments to better inform soil remediation methods. Finally, we discuss the merits and drawbacks of applying FTICR-MS on the analysis of SOM molecules, along with existing gaps in knowledge, challenges, and new opportunities for research in FTICR-MS applications and SOM identification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144140
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2021


  • Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry
  • Soil organic matter
  • Soil remediation technologies
  • van Krevelen diagram

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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