Articles | Volume 6, issue 10
Research article
25 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 25 Oct 2013

Online determination of levoglucosan in ambient aerosols with particle-into-liquid sampler – high-performance anion-exchange chromatography – mass spectrometry (PILS–HPAEC–MS)

K. Saarnio, K. Teinilä, S. Saarikoski, S. Carbone, S. Gilardoni, H. Timonen, M. Aurela, and R. Hillamo

Abstract. Biomass burning, such as domestic heating, agricultural, and wild open-land fires, has a significant influence on the atmosphere at the global and, especially, at the local scale. Levoglucosan has been shown to be a good tracer for biomass burning emissions in atmospheric particulate matter, and several analytical techniques have been presented for the determination of levoglucosan from filter samples. In this paper, a novel combination of a particle-into-liquid sampler (PILS) to a high-performance anion-exchange chromatograph (HPAEC) with the detection by a mass spectrometer (MS) is presented for the online analysis of levoglucosan in ambient particles. The PILS–HPAEC–MS technique enables a fast online analysis of levoglucosan from the particulate samples. The method was tested at an urban background station in Helsinki, Finland, in winter 2011. A comparison with simultaneous levoglucosan measurements from filter samples by the HPAEC–MS was performed and it showed a good agreement between the online and offline methods. Additionally, the online levoglucosan data were compared with the biomass burning tracer fragments measured by a high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS). As there were no local biomass burning sources close to the measurement station, online levoglucosan measurements revealed that most of the particles from biomass burning were either regionally distributed or long-range transported in the urban background of Helsinki. The average levoglucosan concentrations were relatively low (average 0.083 μg m−3) during the measurement campaign. The highest concentration peak measured for levoglucosan (1.4 μg m−3) seemed to originate from biomass burning in the Baltic countries, likely in Estonia, that was transported to Helsinki.