Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-722
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-722

  20 Oct 2021

20 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Single-particle characterization of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in background air in Northern Europe

Johannes Passig1,2,3, Julian Schade1,2,5, Robert Irsig1,2,4, Thomas Kröger-Badge1,2, Hendryk Czech1,2,3, Thomas Adam3,5, Henrik Fallgren6, Jana Moldanova6, Martin Sklorz3, Thorsten Streibel1,3, and Ralf Zimmermann1,2,3 Johannes Passig et al.
  • 1Joint Mass Spectrometry Centre, Chair of Analytical Chemistry, University Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany
  • 2Department Life, Light & Matter, University of Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany
  • 3Joint Mass Spectrometry Centre, Cooperation Group ‘Comprehensive Molecular Analytics’ (CMA), Helmholtz Zentrum München, 81379 München, Germany
  • 4Photonion GmbH, 19061 Schwerin, Germany
  • 5Bundeswehr University Munich, 85577 Neubiberg, Germany
  • 6IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, 411 33 Gothenburg, Sweden

Abstract. We investigated the distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) on individual ambient aerosol particles at the Swedish west coast in a pristine environment for ten days in October 2019. The measurements were carried out using new technology in single-particle mass spectrometry (SPMS) that reveals both the inorganic particle composition as well as the particle-bound PAHs. More than 290,000 particles were characterized; 4,412 of them reveal PAH signatures. Most of the PAH-containing particles were internal mixtures of carbonaceous material, secondary nitrate, and metals from distant sources in Central and Eastern Europe. We characterize the aerosol with respect to the inorganic composition, comparable to conventional SPMS before we discuss the distribution of PAHs within this particle ensemble. Vice versa, we analyze the single-particle PAH spectra for characteristic patterns and discuss the inorganic composition, origin, and atmospheric processing of the respective particles. The study period comprised different meteorological situations: clean air conditions with winds from the North Sea/Kattegat and little terrestrial air pollution, long-range transport from Eastern Europe and southern Sweden as well as transport of aerosols from Central Europe over the sea. For all meteorological conditions, PAHs were detected in particles whose inorganic content indicates traffic emissions, such as soot, iron, and calcium as well as in particles with biomass burning signatures. However, there were variations in their amounts, dependent on the geographic origin. Because of strong mixing, rapid degradation, and speciation limits, e.g. for PAHs of the same nominal mass, the application of diagnostic ratios for source apportionment is limited under the conditions of our study. Nevertheless, the combination with the inorganic content and meteorological data provide unique insight into the particles’ origin, aging, and mixing state. We exemplarily show how the observation of PAH profiles and inorganic secondary components on a single-particle level can open a new door to investigate aerosol aging processes. To our best knowledge, we herewith present the first comprehensive study on the single-particle distribution of PAHs in ambient air as well as the first set of combined data on PAHs and inorganic composition on a single-particle level.

Johannes Passig et al.

Status: open (until 02 Dec 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-722', Anonymous Referee #1, 19 Nov 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-722', Anonymous Referee #2, 22 Nov 2021 reply

Johannes Passig et al.

Johannes Passig et al.

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Short summary
The single-particle distribution of health-relevant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) was studied at the Swedish coast in autumn. We found PAHs bound to long-range transported particles from Eastern and Central Europe, but also from ship emissions and local sources. This is the first field study using a new technology revealing single-particle data from both inorganic components and PAHs. We discuss PAH profiles that are indicative for several sources and atmospheric ageing processes.
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