Functional group composition of ambient and source organic aerosols determined by tandem mass spectrometry


  • Dron J.
  • El Haddad I.
  • Temime-Roussel B.
  • Jaffrezo J.-L.
  • Wortham Henri
  • Marchand N.

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The functional group composition of various organic aerosols (OA) is investigated using a recently developed analytical approach based on atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation-tandem mass spectrometry (APCI-MS/MS). The determinations of three functional groups contents are performed quantitatively by neutral loss (carboxylic and carbonyl groups, R-COOH and R-CO-R' respectively) and precursor ion (nitro groups, R-NO2) scanning modes of a tandem mass spectrometer. Major organic aerosol sources are studied: vehicular emission and wood combustion for primary aerosol sources; and a secondary organic aerosol (SOA) produced through photooxidation of o-xylene. The results reveal significant differences in the functional group contents of these source aerosols. The laboratory generated SOA is dominated by carbonyls while carboxylics are preponderate in the wood combustion particles. On the other hand, vehicular emissions are characterised by a strong nitro content. The total amount of the three functional groups accounts for 1.7% (vehicular) to 13.5% (o-xylene photooxidation) of the organic carbon. Diagnostic functional group ratios are then used to tentatively discriminate sources of particles collected in an urban background environment located in an Alpine valley (Chamonix, France) during a strong winter pollution event. The three functional groups under study account for a total functionalisation rate of 2.2 to 3.8% of the organic carbon in this ambient aerosol, which is also dominated by carboxylic moieties. In this particular case study of a deep alpine valley during winter, we show that the nitro- and carbonyl-to-carboxylic diagnostic ratios can be a useful tool to discriminate sources. In these conditions, the total OA concentrations are highly dominated by wood combustion OA. This result is confirmed by an organic markers source apportionment approach which assess a wood burning organic carbon contribution of about 60%. Finally, examples of functional group mass spectra of all aerosols under study are presented, and additional perspectives offered by the mass spectra in terms of OA characterisation are discussed.

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