Articles | Volume 5, issue 11
Research article
15 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 15 Nov 2012

Calibration and intercomparison of acetic acid measurements using proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS)

K. B. Haase, W. C. Keene, A. A. P. Pszenny, H. R. Mayne, R. W. Talbot, and B. C. Sive

Abstract. Acetic acid is one of the most abundant organic acids in the ambient atmosphere, with maximum mixing ratios reaching into the tens of parts per billion by volume (ppbv) range. The identities and associated magnitudes of the major sources and sinks for acetic acid are poorly characterized, due in part to the limitations of available measurement techniques. This paper demonstrates that, when properly calibrated, proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) can be a valuable technique for fast response, accurate quantification of acetic acid in ambient air. Three different PTR-MS configurations were calibrated at low ppbv mixing ratios using permeation tubes, which yielded calibration factors between 7.0 and 10.9 normalized counts per second per ppbv (ncps ppbv−1) at a drift tube field strength of 132 Townsend (Td). Detection limits ranged from 0.06 to 0.32 ppbv with dwell times of 5 s. These calibration factors showed negligible humidity dependence. Acetic acid was measured with PTR-MS on Appledore B Island, ME, during the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation (ICARTT) campaign and validated based on acetic acid measured in parallel using tandem mist chambers coupled with ion chromatography (MC/IC). Mixing ratios ranged from a minimum of 0.075 ± 0.004 ppbv to 3.555 ± 0.171 ppbv, with a median mixing ratio of 0.530 ± 0.025 ppbv. An orthogonal least squares linear regression of paired data yielded a slope of 1.14 ± 0.06 (2σ), an intercept of 0.049 ± 0.020 (2σ) ppbv, and an R2 of 0.78.