Articles | Volume 3, issue 4
17 Aug 2010
 | 17 Aug 2010

Formaldehyde measurements by Proton transfer reaction – Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS): correction for humidity effects

A. Vlasenko, A .M. Macdonald, S. J. Sjostedt, and J. P. D. Abbatt

Abstract. Formaldehyde measurements can provide useful information about photochemical activity in ambient air, given that HCHO is formed via numerous oxidation processes. Proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) is an online technique that allows measurement of VOCs at the sub-ppbv level with good time resolution. PTR-MS quantification of HCHO is hampered by the humidity dependence of the instrument sensitivity, with higher humidity leading to loss of PTR-MS signal. In this study we present an analytical, first principles approach to correct the PTR-MS HCHO signal according to the concentration of water vapor in sampled air. The results of the correction are validated by comparison of the PTR-MS results to those from a Hantzsch fluorescence monitor which does not have the same humidity dependence. Results are presented for an intercomparison made during a field campaign in rural Ontario at Environment Canada's Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments.