Characterization and source apportionment of organic aerosol using offline aerosol mass spectrometry
Field deployments of the Aerodyne Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS) have significantly advanced real-time measurements and source apportionment of non-refractory particulate matter. However, the cost and complex maintenance requirements of the AMS make its deployment at sufficient sites to determine regional characteristics impractical. Furthermore, the negligible transmission efficiency of the AMS inlet for supermicron particles significantly limits the characterization of their chemical nature and contributing sources. In this study, we utilize the AMS to characterize the water-soluble organic fingerprint of ambient particles collected onto conventional quartz filters, which are routinely sampled at many air quality sites. The method was applied to 256 particulate matter (PM) filter samples (PM1, PM2.5, and PM10, i.e., PM with aerodynamic diameters smaller than 1, 2.5, and 10 µm, respectively), collected at 16 urban and rural sites during summer and winter. We show that the results obtained by the present technique compare well with those from co-located online measurements, e.g., AMS or Aerosol Chemical Speciation Monitor (ACSM). The bulk recoveries of organic aerosol (60–91 %) achieved using this technique, together with low detection limits (0.8 µg of organic aerosol on the analyzed filter fraction) allow its application to environmental samples. We will discuss the recovery variability of individual hydrocarbon ions, ions containing oxygen, and other ions. The performance of such data in source apportionment is assessed in comparison to ACSM data. Recoveries of organic components related to different sources as traffic, wood burning, and secondary organic aerosol are presented. This technique, while subjected to the limitations inherent to filter-based measurements (e.g., filter artifacts and limited time resolution) may be used to enhance the AMS capabilities in measuring size-fractionated, spatially resolved long-term data sets.