Articles | Volume 14, issue 12
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 6075–6088, 2014
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 6075–6088, 2014

Research article 20 Jun 2014

Research article | 20 Jun 2014

Functional characterization of the water-soluble organic carbon of size-fractionated aerosol in the southern Mississippi Valley

M.-C. G. Chalbot1, J. Brown1, P. Chitranshi2, G. Gamboa da Costa2, E. D. Pollock3, and I. G. Kavouras1 M.-C. G. Chalbot et al.
  • 1University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
  • 2National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, Arkansas, USA
  • 3University of Arkansas Stable Isotope Laboratory, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA

Abstract. The chemical content of water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) as a function of particle size was characterized in Little Rock, Arkansas in winter and spring 2013. The objectives of this study were to (i) compare the functional characteristics of coarse, fine and ultrafine WSOC and (ii) reconcile the sources of WSOC for periods when carbonaceous aerosol was the most abundant particulate component. The WSOC accounted for 5% of particle mass for particles with dp > 0.96 μm and 10% of particle mass for particles with dp < 0.96 μm. Non-exchangeable aliphatic (H–C), unsaturated aliphatic (H–C–C=), oxygenated saturated aliphatic (H–C–O), acetalic (O–CH–O) and aromatic (Ar–H) protons were determined by proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR). The total non-exchangeable organic hydrogen concentrations varied from 4.1 ± 0.1 nmol m−3 for particles with 1.5 < dp < 3.0 μm to 73.9 ± 12.3 nmol m−3 for particles with dp < 0.49 μm. The molar H / C ratios varied from 0.48 ± 0.05 to 0.92 ± 0.09, which were comparable to those observed for combustion-related organic aerosol. The R–H was the most abundant group, representing about 45% of measured total non-exchangeable organic hydrogen concentrations, followed by H–C–O (27%) and H–C–C= (26%). Levoglucosan, amines, ammonium and methanesulfonate were identified in NMR fingerprints of fine particles. Sucrose, fructose, glucose, formate and acetate were associated with coarse particles. These qualitative differences of 1H-NMR profiles for different particle sizes indicated the possible contribution of biological aerosols and a mixture of aliphatic and oxygenated compounds from biomass burning and traffic exhausts. The concurrent presence of ammonium and amines also suggested the presence of ammonium/aminium nitrate and sulfate secondary aerosol. The size-dependent origin of WSOC was further corroborated by the increasing δ13C abundance from −26.81 ± 0.18‰ for the smallest particles to −25.93 ± 0.31‰ for the largest particles and the relative distribution of the functional groups as compared to those previously observed for marine, biomass burning and secondary organic aerosol. The latter also allowed for the differentiation of urban combustion-related aerosol and biological particles. The five types of organic hydrogen accounted for the majority of WSOC for particles with dp > 3.0 μm and dp < 0.96 μm.

Final-revised paper