Qualitative and quantitative analysis of atmospheric organosulfates in Centreville, Alabama
Abstract. Organosulfates are components of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) that form from oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sulfate. In this study, the composition and abundance of organosulfates were determined in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) collected from Centreville, AL, during the Southern Oxidant and Aerosol Study (SOAS) in summer 2013. Six organosulfates were quantified using hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) with triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (TQD) against authentic standards. Among these, the three most abundant species were glycolic acid sulfate (0.5–52.5 ng m−3), lactic acid sulfate (0.5–36.7 ng m−3), and hydroxyacetone sulfate (0.5–14.3 ng m−3). These three species were strongly inter-correlated, suggesting similar precursors and/or formation pathways. Further correlations with sulfate, isoprene, and isoprene oxidation products indicate important roles for these precursors in organosulfate formation in Centreville. Positive filter sampling artifacts associated with these organosulfates due to gas adsorption or reaction of gas phase precursors of organosulfates with sulfuric acid were assessed for a subset of samples and were less than 7.8 % of their PM2.5 concentrations. Together, the quantified organosulfates accounted for < 0.3 % of organic carbon mass in PM2.5. To gain insights into other organosulfates in PM2.5 collected from Centreville, semi-quantitative analysis was employed by way of monitoring characteristic product ions of organosulfates (HSO4− at m∕z 97 and SO4− ⋅ at m∕z 96) and evaluating relative signal strength by HILIC–TQD. Molecular formulas of organosulfates were determined by high-resolution time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry. The major organosulfate signal across all samples corresponded to 2-methyltetrol sulfates, which accounted for 42–62 % of the total bisulfate ion signal. Conversely, glycolic acid sulfate, the most abundant organosulfate quantified in this study, was 0.13–0.57 % of the total bisulfate ion signal. Precursors of m∕z 96 mainly consisted of nitro-oxy organosulfates. Organosulfates identified were mainly associated with biogenic VOC precursors, particularly isoprene and to a lesser extent monoterpenes and 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol (MBO). While a small number of molecules dominated the total organosulfate signal, a large number of minor species were also present. This study provides insights into the major organosulfate species in the southeastern US, as measured by tandem mass spectrometry that should be targets for future standard development and quantitative analysis.