Measurement of HONO, HNCO, and other inorganic acids by negative-ion proton-transfer chemical-ionization mass spectrometry (NI-PT-CIMS): application to biomass burning emissions
Abstract. A negative-ion proton-transfer chemical ionization mass spectrometric technique (NI-PT-CIMS), using acetate as the reagent ion, was applied to the measurement of volatile inorganic acids of atmospheric interest: hydrochloric (HCl), nitrous (HONO), nitric (HNO3), and isocyanic (HNCO) acids. Gas phase calibrations through the sampling inlet showed the method to be intrinsically sensitive (6–16 cts/pptv), but prone to inlet effects for HNO3 and HCl. The ion chemistry was found to be insensitive to water vapor concentrations, in agreement with previous studies of carboxylic acids. The inlet equilibration times for HNCO and HONO were 2 to 4 s, allowing for measurement in biomass burning studies. Several potential interferences in HONO measurements were examined: decomposition of HNO3·NO3− clusters within the CIMS, and NO2-water production on inlet surfaces, and were quite minor (≤1%, 3.3%, respectively). The detection limits of the method were limited by the instrument backgrounds in the ion source and flow tube, and were estimated to range between 16 and 50 pptv (parts per trillion by volume) for a 1 min average. The comparison of HONO measured by CIMS and by in situ FTIR showed good correlation and agreement to within 17%. The method provided rapid and accurate measurements of HNCO and HONO in controlled biomass burning studies, in which both acids were seen to be important products.