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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 12, 5389-5423, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed
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Research article
20 Feb 2012
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). A final paper in ACP is not foreseen.
Quantification of diesel exhaust gas phase organics by a thermal desorption proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer
M. H. Erickson, H. W. Wallace, and B. T. Jobson
Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA

Abstract. A new approach was developed to measure the total abundance of long chain alkanes (C12 and above) in urban air using thermal desorption with a proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer (PTR-MS). These species are emitted in diesel exhaust and may be important precursors to secondary organic aerosol production in urban areas. Long chain alkanes undergo dissociative proton transfer reactions forming a series of fragment ions with formula CnH2n+1. The yield of the fragment ions is a function of drift conditions. At a drift field strength of 80 Townsends, the most abundant ion fragments from C10 to C16 n-alkanes were m/z 57, 71 and 85. The PTR-MS is insensitive to n-alkanes less than C8 but displays an increasing sensitivity for larger alkanes. Higher drift field strengths yield greater normalized sensitivity implying that the proton affinity of the long chain n-alkanes is less than H2O. Analysis of diesel fuel shows the mass spectrum was dominated by alkanes (CnH2n+1), monocyclic aromatics, and an ion group with formula CnH2n−1 (m/z 97, 111, 125, 139). The PTR-MS was deployed in Sacramento, CA during the Carbonaceous Aerosols and Radiative Effects Study field experiment in June 2010. The ratio of the m/z 97 to 85 ion intensities in ambient air matched that found in diesel fuel. Total diesel exhaust alkane concentrations calculated from the measured abundance of m/z 85 ranged from the method detection limit of ~1 μg m−3 to 100 μg m−3 in several air pollution episodes. The total diesel exhaust alkane concentration determined by this method was on average a factor of 10 greater than the sum of alkylbenzenes associated with spark ignition vehicle exhaust.

Citation: Erickson, M. H., Wallace, H. W., and Jobson, B. T.: Quantification of diesel exhaust gas phase organics by a thermal desorption proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 12, 5389-5423, doi:10.5194/acpd-12-5389-2012, 2012.
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