Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Research article
05 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 05 Mar 2015

Investigating a two-component model of solid fuel organic aerosol in London: processes, PM1 contributions, and seasonality

D. E. Young, J. D. Allan, P. I. Williams, D. C. Green, R. M. Harrison, J. Yin, M. J. Flynn, M. W. Gallagher, and H. Coe

Abstract. Solid fuel emissions, including those from biomass burning, are increasing in urban areas across the European Union due to rising energy costs and government incentives to use renewable energy sources for heating. In order to help protect human health as well as to improve air quality and pollution abatement strategies, the sources of combustion aerosols, their contributions, and the processes they undergo need to be better understood. A high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS) was therefore deployed at an urban background site between January and February 2012 to investigate solid fuel organic aerosols (SFOA) in London. The variability of SFOA was examined and the factors governing the split between the two SFOA factors derived from Positive Matrix Factorisation (PMF) were assessed. The concentrations of both factors were found to increase during the night and during cold periods, consistent with domestic space heating activities. The split between the two factors is likely governed predominantly by differences in burn conditions where SFOA1 best represents more efficient burns and SFOA2 best represents less efficient burns. The differences in efficiency may be due to burner types or burn phase, for example. Different fuel types and levels of atmospheric processing also likely contribute to the two factors. As the mass spectral profile of SFOA is highly variable, the findings from this study may have implications for improving future source apportionment and factorisation analyses.

During the winter, SFOA was found to contribute 38% to the total non-refractory submicron organic aerosol (OA) mass, with similar contributions from both SFOA factors (20% from SFOA1 and 18% from SFOA2). A similar contribution of SFOA was derived for the same period from a compact time-of-flight AMS (cToF-AMS), which measured for a full calendar year at the same site. The seasonality of SFOA was investigated using the year-long data set where concentrations were greatest in the autumn and winter. During the summer, SFOA contributed 11% to the organic fraction, where emissions resulted from different anthropogenic activities such as barbecues and domestic garden wood burning. The significant contribution of SFOA to total organic mass throughout the year suggests that the negative effects on health and air quality, as well as climate, are not just confined to winter as exposure to these aerosols and the associated black carbon can also occur during the summer, which may have significant implications for air-quality policies and mitigation strategies.

Short summary
Two solid fuel organic aerosol (SFOA) factors, both associated with domestic space heating activities, were derived from positive matrix factorisation (PMF) applied to organic aerosol data from an aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) deployed at an urban background site in London during winter 2012. The factors controlling the split between the two SFOA factors were assessed, and it is concluded the split is likely governed predominantly by differences in burn conditions.
Final-revised paper