Aerosol analysis using a Proton-Transfer-Reaction Thermo-Desorption Mass Spectrometer (PTR-TD-MS): a new approach to study processing of organic aerosols
1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht, Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC, Utrecht, The Netherlands
2Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
3Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh PA 15213, USA
Abstract. We present a novel analytical approach to measure the chemical composition of organic aerosol. The new instrument combines proton-transfer-reaction mass-spectrometry (PTR-MS) with a collection-thermo-desorption aerosol sampling technique. For secondary organic aerosol produced from the reaction of ozone with isoprenoids in a laboratory reactor, the PTR-TD-MS instrument detected typically 80% of the mass that was measured with a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS). The first field deployment of the instrument was the EUCAARI-IOP campaign at the CESAR tall tower site in the Netherlands. For masses with low background values (~30% of all masses) the detection limit of aerosol compounds was below 0.2 ng/m3 which corresponds to a sampled compound mass of 35 pg. Comparison of thermograms from ambient samples and from chamber-derived secondary organic aerosol shows that, in general, organic compounds from ambient aerosol samples desorb at much higher temperatures than chamber samples. This suggests that chamber aerosol is not a good surrogate for ambient aerosol and therefore caution is advised when extrapolating results from chamber experiments to ambient conditions.