Estimates of the organic aerosol volatility in a boreal forest using two independent methods
Abstract. The volatility distribution of secondary organic aerosols that formed and had undergone aging – i.e., the particle mass fractions of semi-volatile, low-volatility and extremely low volatility organic compounds in the particle phase – was characterized in a boreal forest environment of Hyytiälä, southern Finland. This was done by interpreting field measurements using a volatility tandem differential mobility analyzer (VTDMA) with a kinetic evaporation model. The field measurements were performed during April and May 2014. On average, 40 % of the organics in particles were semi-volatile, 34 % were low-volatility organics and 26 % were extremely low volatility organics. The model was, however, very sensitive to the vaporization enthalpies assumed for the organics (ΔHVAP). The best agreement between the observed and modeled temperature dependence of the evaporation was obtained when effective vaporization enthalpy values of 80 kJ mol−1 were assumed. There are several potential reasons for the low effective enthalpy value, including molecular decomposition or dissociation that might occur in the particle phase upon heating, mixture effects and compound-dependent uncertainties in the mass accommodation coefficient. In addition to the VTDMA-based analysis, semi-volatile and low-volatility organic mass fractions were independently determined by applying positive matrix factorization (PMF) to high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-AMS) data. The factor separation was based on the oxygenation levels of organics, specifically the relative abundance of mass ions at m∕z 43 (f43) and m∕z 44 (f44). The mass fractions of these two organic groups were compared against the VTDMA-based results. In general, the best agreement between the VTDMA results and the PMF-derived mass fractions of organics was obtained when ΔHVAP = 80 kJ mol−1 was set for all organic groups in the model, with a linear correlation coefficient of around 0.4. However, this still indicates that only about 16 % (R2) of the variation can be explained by the linear regression between the results from these two methods. The prospect of determining of extremely low volatility organic aerosols (ELVOAs) from AMS data using the PMF analysis should be assessed in future studies.