Articles | Volume 3, issue 4
31 Aug 2010
 | 31 Aug 2010

Near-infrared laser desorption/ionization aerosol mass spectrometry for measuring organic aerosol at atmospherically relevant aerosol mass loadings

S. Geddes, B. Nichols, K. Todd, J. Zahardis, and G. A. Petrucci

Abstract. A new method, near-infrared laser desorption/ionization aerosol mass spectrometry (NIR-LDI-AMS), is described for the real time analysis of organic aerosols at atmospherically relevant total mass loadings. Particles are sampled with an aerodynamic lens onto an aluminum probe. A moderate energy NIR laser pulse at 1064 nm is directed onto the probe to vaporize and ionize particle components. Delayed pulse extraction is then used to sample the ions into a reflectron time of flight mass spectrometer for chemical analysis. The soft ionization afforded by the NIR photons results in minimal fragmentation (loss of a hydrogen atom) producing intact pseudo-molecular anions at [M-H]. The limit of detection measured for pure oleic acid particles (geometric mean diameter and standard deviation of 180 nm and 1.3, respectively) was 140 fg (or 1.7 ng m−3 per minute sampling time). As an example of the utility of NIR-LDI-AMS to measurements of atmospheric importance, the method was applied to laboratory chamber measurements of the secondary organic aerosol formation from ozonolysis of α-pinene. High quality mass spectra were recorded with a 2-min time resolution for total aerosol mass loadings ranging from 1.5 to 8.7 μg m−3. These results demonstrate the potential of NIR-LDI-AMS to allow for more accurate measurements of the organic fraction of atmospheric particulate at realistic mass loadings. Measurements at ambient-levels of SOA mass loading are important to improve parameterizations of chamber-based SOA formation for modeling regional and global SOA fluxes and to aid in remediating the discrepancy between modeled and observed atmospheric total SOA production rates and concentrations.