Field measurements of methylglyoxal using proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry and comparison to the DNPH–HPLC–UV method

Michoud, Vincent; Sauvage, Stéphane; Léonardis, Thierry; Fronval, Isabelle; Kukui, Alexandre; Locoge, Nadine; Dusanter, Sébastien

Methylglyoxal (MGLY) is an important atmospheric inline-formulaα-dicarbonyl species for which photolysis acts as a significant source of peroxy radicals, contributing to the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere and, as such, the formation of secondary pollutants such as organic aerosols and ozone. However, despite its importance, only a few techniques exhibit time resolutions and detection limits that are suitable for atmospheric measurements.

This study presents the first field measurements of MGLY by proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-ToF-MS) performed during the ChArMEx SOP2 field campaign. This campaign took place at a Mediterranean site characterized by intense biogenic emissions and low levels of anthropogenic trace gases. Concomitant measurements of MGLY were performed using the 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) derivatization technique and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with UV detection. PTR-ToF-MS and DNPH–HPLC measurements were compared to determine whether these techniques can perform reliable measurements of MGLY.

Ambient time series revealed levels of MGLY ranging from 28 to 365 pptv, with a clear diurnal cycle due to elevated concentrations of primary biogenic species during the daytime, and its oxidation led to large production rates of MGLY. A scatter plot of the PTR-ToF-MS and DNPH–HPLC measurements indicates a reasonable correlation (inline-formulaR2=0.48) but a slope significantly lower than unity (inline-formula0.58±0.05) and a significant intercept of inline-formula88.3±8.0 pptv. A careful investigation of the differences between the two techniques suggests that this disagreement is not due to spectrometric interferences from inline-formulaH3O+(H2O)3 or methyl ethyl ketone (or butanal) detected at inline-formulamz 73.050 and inline-formulamz 73.065, respectively, which are close to the MGLY inline-formulamz of 73.029. The differences are more likely due to uncorrected sampling artifacts such as overestimated collection efficiency or loss of MGLY into the sampling line for the DNPH–HPLC technique or unknown isobaric interfering compounds such as acrylic acid and propanediol for the PTR-ToF-MS.

Calculations of MGLY loss rates with respect to OH oxidation and direct photolysis indicate similar contributions for these two loss pathways.

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Michoud, Vincent / Sauvage, Stéphane / Léonardis, Thierry / et al: Field measurements of methylglyoxal using proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry and comparison to the DNPH–HPLC–UV method. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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