Thursday, 17 January 2002: 8:30 AM
Chemical characterization of particulate matter at the La Porte site using an aerosol mass spectrometer
During the summer of 2000, a large atmospheric chemistry field campaign took place in the Greater Houston area in conjunction with an EPA supersite. As part of the campaign, we operated an aerosol mass spectrometer from 20 August, 2000 until 15 September, 2000. The aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) obtained chemical composition data and particle size distributions continuously with 10 minute averaging times. The measured aerosol mass concentration ranged from approximately 2 mg m-3to a high of 30 mg m-3. Ammonium and sulfate were the two dominant chemical species present during most of the study. The mass concentration of particulate nitrate was typically less than a few mg m-3, with one major nitrate event on 23 August, 2000. Very small amounts of non-sea salt chloride were detected in the particles, typically less than one mg m-3, again with the largest value detected on 23 August, 2000. In addition to the inorganic species, several different organic aerosol types were identified based on simple evaluation of mass spectral and size distribution data. Three organic particle types appear to be from discrete primary sources of organic aerosol. A combustion particle type displays mass spectra similar to those observed from diesel exhaust emissions. The temporal variation of this type shows sharp spikes, consistent with primary sources and sharp plumes that drift pass. A second organic particle type is responsible for the largest particle mass concentrations observed during the entire study, occurring during a fire episode on 5-6 September, 2000. The mass spectra exhibit characteristic peaks representative of markers for compounds from biomass burning, including levoglucosan and dehydroabietic acid. A third organic particle type observed during the study exhibits peaks in the mass spectra that are characteristic of fluorinated hydrocarbons and are similar to mass spectra of pump oil. This particle type contributes several mg m-3 to the ambient particle mass concentrations during the study. It is likely that this particle type is the result of a local source at the La Porte site. This particle type illustrates the importance of real-time mass spectrometric measurements, as a bulk filter measurement using gravimetric determination would not determine the presence of this local source contaminant. A fourth organic particle type was observed to exhibit a strong diurnal cycle, with a mass contribution of anywhere from 1-8 mg m-3 with the maximum occurring during each afternoon. This organic particle type, unlike the others, appears to be due to secondary aerosol chemistry occurring in the atmosphere and resulting in organic vapor deposition into the particulate phase. The mass spectra of this particle type exhibits peaks characteristic of oxygenated organic compounds, in particular what appears to be dicarboxylic acids.