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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 14 May 2019

Research article | 14 May 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

Quantifying organic matter and functional groups in particulate matter filter samples from the southeastern United States, part I: Methods

Alexandra J. Boris1, Satoshi Takahama2, Andrew T. Weakley1, Bruno M. Debus1, Carley D. Fredrickson3, Martin Esparza-Sanchez1, Charlotte Burki2, Matteo Reggente2, Stephanie L. Shaw4, Eric S. Edgerton5, and Ann M. Dillner1 Alexandra J. Boris et al.
  • 1Air Quality Research Center, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, USA
  • 2ENAC/IIE Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EFPL), Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 3Atmospheric Science Department, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 4Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA, 94304, USA
  • 5Atmospheric Research & Analysis, Inc., Cary, NC 27513, USA

Abstract. Comprehensive techniques to describe the organic composition of atmospheric aerosol are needed to elucidate pollution sources, gain insights into atmospheric chemistry and evaluate changes in air quality. Fourier Transform Infrared absorption (FT-IR) spectrometry can be used to characterize atmospheric organic matter (OM) and its composition via functional groups on aerosol filter samples in air monitoring networks and research campaigns. We have built FT-IR spectrometry functional group calibration models that improve upon previous work. Laboratory standards that simulated the breadth of the absorbing functional groups in atmospheric OM were made: particles of relevant chemicals were first generated, collected, and analyzed. Challenges of collecting atmospherically relevant particles and spectra were addressed by including interferences of particle water and other inorganic aerosol constituents and exploring the spectral effects of inter-molecular interactions. Calibration models of functional groups were then constructed using partial least squares (PLS) regression and the collected laboratory standard data. These models were used to quantify concentrations of five organic functional groups and OM in eight years of ambient aerosol samples from the southeastern aerosol research and characterization (SEARCH) network. The results agreed with values estimated using other methods, including thermal optical reflectance (TOR) organic carbon (OC; R2 = 0.74) and OM calculated as a difference between total aerosol mass and inorganic species concentrations (R2 = 0.82). Comparisons with previous calibration models of the same type demonstrate that this new, more complete suite of chemicals has improved our ability to estimate oxygenated functional group and overall OM concentrations. Calculated characteristic and elemental ratios including OM/OC, O/C and H/C agree with those from previous work in the southeastern US, substantiating the aerosol composition described by FT-IR calibration. The median OM/OC ratio over all sites and years was 2.1 ± 0.2. Further results discussing temporal and spatial trends of functional group composition within the SEARCH network will be published in a forthcoming article.

Alexandra J. Boris et al.
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Alexandra J. Boris et al.
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Short summary
Organic species are abundant in atmospheric particle-phase (aerosol) pollution, and originate from a variety of biogenic and anthropogenic sources. Infrared spectrometry of filter-based atmospheric particle samples can afford a direct measurement of the particle organic matter concentration and a characterization of its composition. This work discusses recent method improvements and composition measured in samples from the Southeastern Aerosol Research and Characterization (SEARCH) network.
Organic species are abundant in atmospheric particle-phase (aerosol) pollution, and originate...