07 Oct 2022
07 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Technical note: Identification of chemical composition and source of fluorescent components in atmospheric water-soluble brown carbon by excitation-emission matrix with parallel factor analysis: Potential limitation and application

Tao Cao1,2,3, Meiju Li1,2,3, Cuncun Xu1,2,3, Jianzhong Song1,2,5, Xingjun Fan4, Jun Li1,2,5, Wanglu Jia1,2, and Ping’an Peng1,2,3,5 Tao Cao et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry and Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Environmental Protection and Resources Utilization, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510640, China
  • 2CAS Center for Excellence in Deep Earth Science, Guangzhou 510640, China
  • 3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • 4College of Resource and Environment, Anhui Science and Technology University, Fengyang 233100, China
  • 5Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Joint Laboratory for Environmental Pollution and Control, Guangzhou 510640, China

Abstract. Three-dimensional excitation-emission matrix (EEM) fluorescence spectroscopy is an important method for identification of occurrences, chemical composition, and sources of atmospheric chromophores. However, current knowledge on identification and interpretation of fluorescent components is mainly based on aquatic dissolved organic matter and might not be applicable to atmospheric samples. Therefore, this study comprehensively investigated EEM data of different types of strong light-absorbing organic compounds, water-soluble organic matter (WSOM) in different aerosol samples (combustion source samples and ambient aerosols), soil dust, and purified fulvic and humic acids by an EEM-parallel factor method. The results demonstrated that organic compounds with high aromaticity and strong electron-donating groups generally present strong fluorescence spectra at longer emission wavelength, whereas organic compounds substituted with electron-withdrawing groups have relatively weaker fluorescence intensity. In particular, aromatic compounds containing nitro groups (i.e., nitrophenols), which show strong absorption and are the major component of atmospheric brown carbon, exhibited no significant fluorescence. Although fluorescent component 1 (235, 270/330 nm) in ambient WSOM is generally considered as protein-like groups, our findings suggested that it is mainly composed of aromatic acids, phenolic compounds, and their derivatives, with only traces of amino acids. Principal component analysis and Pearson correlation coefficients between mass absorption efficiency at 365 nm (MAE365) and humification index (HIX), C1, C2, and C3 indicated that the highly aromatic and oxidized fluorescent component 3 may be an important contributor to the light-absorption capacity of ambient WSOM. These findings provide new insights for the analysis of chemical properties and sources of atmospheric fluorophores using the EEM method.

Tao Cao et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-676', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Nov 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-676', Anonymous Referee #1, 23 Nov 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on acp-2022-676', Anonymous Referee #2, 28 Nov 2022
  • EC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-676', Irena Grgić, 28 Nov 2022

Tao Cao et al.


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Short summary
This study comprehensively investigated the fluorescence data of strong light-absorbing organic compounds, water-soluble organic matter in different types of aerosol samples, soil dust, and fulvic/humic acids by an EEM-parallel factor method. The results revealed which light-absorbing species can be detected by EEM and also provided important information for identifying the chemical compositions and possible sources of these species in atmospheric BrC.