Seasonal characteristics of organic aerosol chemical composition and volatility in Stuttgart, Germany

Huang, Wei; Saathoff, Harald; Shen, Xiaoli; Ramisetty, Ramakrishna; Leisner, Thomas; Mohr, Claudia

The chemical composition and volatility of organic aerosol (OA) particles were investigated during July–August 2017 and February–March 2018 in the city of Stuttgart, one of the most polluted cities in Germany. Total non-refractory particle mass was measured with a high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS; hereafter AMS). Aerosol particles were collected on filters and analyzed in the laboratory with a filter inlet for gases and aerosols coupled to a high-resolution time-of-flight chemical ionization mass spectrometer (FIGAERO-HR-ToF-CIMS; hereafter CIMS), yielding the molecular composition of oxygenated OA (OOA) compounds. While the average organic mass loadings are lower in the summer period (5.1±3.2 µg m−3) than in the winter period (8.4±5.6 µg m−3), we find relatively larger mass contributions of organics measured by AMS in summer (68.8±13.4 %) compared to winter (34.8±9.5 %). CIMS mass spectra show OOA compounds in summer have O : C of 0.82±0.02 and are more influenced by biogenic emissions, while OOA compounds in winter have O : C of 0.89±0.06 and are more influenced by biomass burning emissions. Volatility parametrization analysis shows that OOA in winter is less volatile with higher contributions of low-volatility organic compounds (LVOCs) and extremely low-volatility organic compounds (ELVOCs). We partially explain this by the higher contributions of compounds with shorter carbon chain lengths and a higher number of oxygen atoms, i.e., higher O : C in winter. Organic compounds desorbing from the particles deposited on the filter samples also exhibit a shift of signal to higher desorption temperatures (i.e., lower apparent volatility) in winter. This is consistent with the relatively higher O : C in winter but may also be related to higher particle viscosity due to the higher contributions of larger-molecular-weight LVOCs and ELVOCs, interactions between different species and/or particles (particle matrix), and/or thermal decomposition of larger molecules. The results suggest that whereas lower temperature in winter may lead to increased partitioning of semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) into the particle phase, this does not result in a higher overall volatility of OOA in winter and that the difference in sources and/or chemistry between the seasons plays a more important role. Our study provides insights into the seasonal variation of the molecular composition and volatility of ambient OA particles and into their potential sources.

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Huang, Wei / Saathoff, Harald / Shen, Xiaoli / et al: Seasonal characteristics of organic aerosol chemical composition and volatility in Stuttgart, Germany. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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