Articles | Volume 10, issue 2
Research article
28 Feb 2017
Research article |  | 28 Feb 2017

An online monitor of the oxidative capacity of aerosols (o-MOCA)

Arantzazu Eiguren-Fernandez, Nathan Kreisberg, and Susanne Hering

Abstract. The capacity of airborne particulate matter to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been correlated with the generation of oxidative stress both in vitro and in vivo. The cellular damage from oxidative stress, and by implication with ROS, is associated with several common diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and some neurological diseases. Yet currently available chemical and in vitro assays to determine the oxidative capacity of ambient particles require large samples, analyses are typically done offline, and the results are not immediate.

Here we report the development of an online monitor of the oxidative capacity of aerosols (o-MOCA) to provide online, time-resolved assessment of the capacity of airborne particles to generate ROS. Our approach combines the Liquid Spot Sampler (LSS), which collects particles directly into small volumes of liquid, and a chemical module optimized for online measurement of the oxidative capacity of aerosol using the dithiothreitol (DTT) assay. The LSS uses a three-stage, laminar-flow water condensation approach to enable the collection of particles as small as 5 nm into liquid. The DTT assay has been improved to allow the online, time-resolved analysis of samples collected with the LSS but could be adapted to other collection methods or offline analysis of liquid extracts.

The o-MOCA was optimized and its performance evaluated using the 9,10-phenanthraquinone (PQ) as a standard redox-active compound. Laboratory testing shows minimum interferences or carryover between consecutive samples, low blanks, and a reproducible, linear response between the DTT consumption rate (nmol min−1) and PQ concentration (µM). The calculated limit of detection for o-MOCA was 0.15 nmol min−1. The system was validated with a diesel exhaust particle (DEP) extract, previously characterized and used for the development, improvement, and validation of the standard DTT analysis. The DTT consumption rates (nmol min−1) obtained with the o-MOCA were within experimental uncertainties of those previously reported for these DEP samples. In ambient air testing, the fully automated o-MOCA was run unattended for 3 days with 3 h time resolution and showed a diurnal and daily variability in the measured consumption rates (nmol min−1 m−3).

Short summary
The capacity of airborne particles to generate reactive oxygen species has been correlated with the generation of oxidative stress, which may lead to the development of common diseases such as asthma and Alzheimer’s. As the oxidative potential of particles varies significantly by location and time of day, there is a need for monitoring this property in a comprehensive manner. Thus, we are developing a field-deployable system for time-resolved assessment of the oxidative capacity of particles.