Articles | Volume 6, issue 11
Research article
26 Nov 2013
Research article |  | 26 Nov 2013

High-resolution chemical ionization mass spectrometry (ToF-CIMS): application to study SOA composition and processing

D. Aljawhary, A. K. Y. Lee, and J. P. D. Abbatt

Abstract. This paper demonstrates the capabilities of chemical ionization mass spectrometry (CIMS) to study secondary organic aerosol (SOA) composition with a high-resolution (HR) time-of-flight mass analyzer (aerosol-ToF-CIMS). In particular, by studying aqueous oxidation of water-soluble organic compounds (WSOC) extracted from α-pinene ozonolysis SOA, we assess the capabilities of three common CIMS reagent ions: (a) protonated water clusters (H2O)nH+, (b) acetate CH3C(O)O and (c) iodide water clusters I(H2O)n to monitor SOA composition. Furthermore, we report the relative sensitivity of these reagent ions to a wide range of common organic aerosol constituents. We find that (H2O)nH+ is more selective to the detection of less oxidized species, so that the range of O / C and OSC (carbon oxidation state) in the SOA spectra is considerably lower than those measured using CH3C(O)O and I(H2O)n. Specifically, (H2O)nH+ ionizes organic compounds with OSC ≤ 1.3, whereas CH3C(O)O and I(H2O)n both ionize highly oxygenated organics with OSC up to 4 with I(H2O)n being more selective towards multi-functional organic compounds. In the bulk O / C and H / C space (in a Van Krevelen plot), there is a remarkable agreement in both absolute magnitude and oxidation trajectory between ToF-CIMS data and those from a high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-AMS). Despite not using a sensitivity-weighted response for the ToF-CIMS data, the CIMS approach appears to capture much of the chemical change occurring. As demonstrated by the calibration experiments with standards, this is likely because there is not a large variability in sensitivities from one highly oxygenated species to another, particularly for the CH3C(O)O and I(H2O)n reagent ions. Finally, the data illustrate the capability of aerosol-ToF-CIMS to monitor specific chemical change, including the fragmentation and functionalization reactions that occur during organic oxidation, and the oxidative conversion of dimeric SOA species into monomers. Overall, aerosol-ToF-CIMS is a valuable, selective complement to some common SOA characterization methods, such as AMS and spectroscopic techniques. Both laboratory and ambient SOA samples can be analyzed using the techniques illustrated in the paper.