Organic particle types by single-particle measurements using a time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer coupled with a light scattering module
1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
3Center for Aerosol and Cloud Chemistry, Aerodyne Research Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts, USA
4Chemistry Department, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA
Abstract. Chemical and physical properties of individual ambient aerosol particles can vary greatly, so measuring the chemical composition at the single-particle level is essential for understanding atmospheric sources and transformations. Here we describe 46 days of single-particle measurements of atmospheric particles using a time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer coupled with a light scattering module (LS-ToF-AMS). The light scattering module optically detects particles larger than 180 nm vacuum aerodynamic diameter (130 nm geometric diameter) (with size resolution of 5–10 defined as dΔd at full width at half maximum) before they arrive at the chemical mass detector and then triggers the saving of single-particle mass spectra. 271 641 particles were detected and sampled during 237 h of sampling in single particle mode. By comparing the timing of light scattering and chemical ion signals for each particle, particle types were classified and their number fractions determined as follows: prompt vaporization (49%), delayed vaporization (7%), and null (44%). LS-ToF-AMS provided the first direct measurement of the size-resolved collection efficiency (CE) of ambient particles, with an approximate 50% number-based CE for particles above detection limit. Prompt and delayed vaporization particles (147 357 particles) were clustered based on similar organic mass spectra (using K-means algorithm) to result in three major clusters: highly oxidized particles (dominated by m/z 44), relatively less oxidized particles (dominated by m/z 43), and particles associated with fresh urban emissions. Each of the three organic clusters had limited chemical properties of other clusters, suggesting that all of the sampled organic particle types were internally mixed to some degree; however, the internal mixing was never uniform and distinct particle types existed throughout the study. Furthermore, the single particle mass spectra and diurnal variations of these clusters agreed well with mass-based components identified (using factor analysis) from simultaneous ensemble-averaged measurements, supporting the connection between ensemble-based factors and atmospheric particle sources and processes. Measurements in this study illustrate that LS-ToF-AMS provides unique information about organic particle types by number as well as mass.