Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
03 Dec 2009
 | 03 Dec 2009

Real-time profiling of organic trace gases in the planetary boundary layer by PTR-MS using a tethered balloon

R. Schnitzhofer, A. Wisthaler, and A. Hansel

Abstract. A method for real-time profiling of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was developed combining the advantages of a tethered balloon as a research platform and of proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) as an analytical technique for fast and highly sensitive VOC measurements. A 200 m Teflon tube was used to draw sampling air from a tethered aerodynamic balloon to the PTR-MS instrument. Positive and negative artefacts (i.e. formation and loss of VOCs in the tube) were characterised in the laboratory and in the field by a set of 11 atmospherically relevant VOCs including both pure and oxygenated hydrocarbons. The only two compounds that increased or decreased when sampled through the tube were acetone (+7%) and xylene (-6%). The method was successfully deployed during a winter field campaign to determine the small scale spatial and temporal patterns of air pollutants under winter inversion conditions.