Articles | Volume 14, issue 4
Research article
26 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 26 Feb 2014

Molecular composition of biogenic secondary organic aerosols using ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry: comparing laboratory and field studies

I. Kourtchev, S. J. Fuller, C. Giorio, R. M. Healy, E. Wilson, I. O'Connor, J. C. Wenger, M. McLeod, J. Aalto, T. M. Ruuskanen, W. Maenhaut, R. Jones, D. S. Venables, J. R. Sodeau, M. Kulmala, and M. Kalberer

Abstract. Numerous laboratory experiments have been performed in an attempt to mimic atmospheric secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. However, it is still unclear how close the aerosol particles generated in laboratory experiments resemble atmospheric SOA with respect to their detailed chemical composition. In this study, we generated SOA in a simulation chamber from the ozonolysis of α-pinene and a biogenic volatile organic compound (BVOC) mixture containing α- and β-pinene, Δ3-carene, and isoprene. The detailed molecular composition of laboratory-generated SOA was compared with that of background ambient aerosol collected at a boreal forest site (Hyytiälä, Finland) and an urban location (Cork, Ireland) using direct infusion nanoelectrospray ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry. Kendrick mass defect and van Krevelen approaches were used to identify and compare compound classes and distributions of the detected species. The laboratory-generated SOA contained a distinguishable group of dimers that was not observed in the ambient samples. The presence of dimers was found to be less pronounced in the SOA from the BVOC mixtures when compared to the one component precursor system. The molecular composition of SOA from both the BVOC mixture and α-pinene represented the overall composition of the ambient sample from the boreal forest site reasonably well, with 72.3 ± 2.5% (n = 3) and 69.1 ± 3.0% (n = 3) common ions, respectively. In contrast, large differences were found between the laboratory-generated BVOC samples and the ambient urban sample. To our knowledge this is the first direct comparison of molecular composition of laboratory-generated SOA from BVOC mixtures and ambient samples.

Final-revised paper