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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2019-181
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2019-181
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 07 May 2019

Submitted as: research article | 07 May 2019

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

Airborne measurements of particulate organic matter by PTR-MS: a pilot study

Felix Piel1,2, Markus Müller1, Tomas Mikoviny3, Sally E. Pusede4, and Armin Wisthaler2,3 Felix Piel et al.
  • 1Ionicon Analytik GmbH, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 2Institute for Ion Physics and Applied Physics, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 3Department of Chemistry, University of Oslo, Oslo, 0315, Norway
  • 4Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4123, USA

Abstract. We herein report on the first successful airborne deployment of the “CHemical Analysis of AeRosol ONline” (CHARON) particle inlet which allowed us to measure the chemical composition of atmospheric submicrometer particles in real time using a state-of-the-art proton-transfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-ToF-MS) analyzer. The data were collected aboard the NASA DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory on 26 June 2018 over California in the frame of NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program (SARP). We show exemplary data collected when the airplane i) shortly encountered a particle plume emanating from a wildfire (Lions Fire) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, ii) intercepted a particle plume emitted from a petroleum refinery close to Bakersfield, iii) carried out a spatial survey in the boundary layer over the San Joaquin Valley, and iv) performed a vertical profile measurement over the greater Bakersfield area. The most important finding from this pilot study is that the CHARON PTR-ToF-MS system measures fast enough for being deployed on a jet research aircraft. The data collected during 3 to 15 second long plume encounters demonstrate the feasibility of airborne point or small area emission measurements. The fast time response of the analyzer allowed us to generate highly spatially resolved maps (1–2 km in the horizontal, 100 m in the vertical) of atmospheric particle chemical constituents. The chemical information that was extracted from the recorded particle mass spectra includes i) mass concentrations of ammonium, nitrate and total organics, ii) mass concentrations of different classes of organic compounds (CH vs. CHO vs. CHN vs. CHNO compounds; aliphatic vs. monoaromatic vs. polyaromatic compounds), iii) aerosol bulk average (O:C) and (H:C) ratios, iv) mass concentrations of selected marker molecules (e.g., levoglucosan in particles emitted from a wildfire, an alkanolamine in particles emitted from a petroleum refinery), v) wildfire emission ratios (∆total organics/∆CO = 0.054; ∆levoglucosan/∆CO = 7.9 x 10−3, ∆vanillic acid/∆CO = 4.4 x 10−4, ∆retene/∆CO = 1.9 x 10−4; all calculated as peak area ratios, in g g−1). The capability of the CHARON PTR-ToF-MS instrument to chemically characterize submicrometer atmospheric particles in a quantitative manner, at the near-molecular level, and in real time brings a new and unprecedented measurement capability to the airborne atmospheric science community.

Felix Piel et al.
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Felix Piel et al.
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Short summary
We herein report on the first successful airborne deployment of a CHARON PTR-ToF-MS instrument aboard the NASA DC-8 research aircraft. The analyzer is capable of chemically characterizing submicrometer atmospheric particles in a quantitative manner, at the near-molecular level, in real time. This brings a new and unprecedented measurement capability to the airborne atmospheric science community.
We herein report on the first successful airborne deployment of a CHARON PTR-ToF-MS instrument...
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