Articles | Volume 11, issue 13
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 6529–6547, 2011
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 6529–6547, 2011

Research article 08 Jul 2011

Research article | 08 Jul 2011

Characterization of a thermal decomposition chemical ionization mass spectrometer for the measurement of peroxy acyl nitrates (PANs) in the atmosphere

W. Zheng1,2, F. M. Flocke1, G. S. Tyndall1, A. Swanson1,2,*, J. J. Orlando1, J. M. Roberts3, L. G. Huey4, and D. J. Tanner4 W. Zheng et al.
  • 1Atmospheric Chemistry Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 2Coorperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 3Chemical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Lab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4School of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  • *now at: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, California, USA

Abstract. This paper presents a detailed laboratory characterization of a thermal dissociation chemical ionization mass spectrometer (TD-CIMS) for the atmospheric measurement of Peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) and its homologues (PANs). PANs are efficiently dissociated in a heated inlet and the resulting peroxy acyl radicals are reacted with I ions in a flow tube. The mass spectrometer detects the corresponding carboxylate ions. PAN, peroxypropionyl nitrate (PPN), peroxyisobutyryl nitrate (PiBN), peroxy-n-butyryl nitrate (PnBN), peroxyacryloyl nitrate (APAN), peroxycrotonyl nitrates (CPAN) and peroxymethacryloyl nitrate (MPAN) were cross-calibrated with both a dual channel GC/ECD and a total odd-nitrogen (NOy) instrument for the NCAR TD-CIMS' typical aircraft operation conditions. In addition, the instrument sensitivity to a number of more exotic PANs (peroxyhydroxyacetyl nitrate, methoxyformyl peroxynitrate, and peroxybenzoyl nitrate) was evaluated qualitatively by comparisons with a long-path FTIR instrument.

The sensitivity for PPN is slightly higher than that of PAN. Larger aliphatic and olefinic PAN compounds generally showed lower sensitivities. We postulate that these differences are owing to secondary reactions in the thermal decomposition region, which either reduce the yield of peroxy acyl radicals or cause losses of these radicals through intramolecular decomposition. The relative importance of these secondary reactions varies considerably between different PAN species.

Results also indicate that the reaction of the larger peroxy acyl radicals with the ion-water cluster, I(H2O)n proceeds about an order of magnitude faster than with I alone, as has been observed for peroxy acetyl radicals. Sensitivity variations among the individual PAN species at very low water vapor were observed. The results call for careful evaluation of each PAN species to be measured and for each desired operating condition of a TD-CIMS instrument.

Final-revised paper