Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Research article
20 Feb 2013
Research article |  | 20 Feb 2013

Online atmospheric pressure chemical ionization ion trap mass spectrometry (APCI-IT-MSn) for measuring organic acids in concentrated bulk aerosol – a laboratory and field study

A. L. Vogel, M. Äijälä, M. Brüggemann, M. Ehn, H. Junninen, T. Petäjä, D. R. Worsnop, M. Kulmala, J. Williams, and T. Hoffmann

Abstract. The field application of an aerosol concentrator in conjunction with an atmospheric pressure chemical ionization ion trap mass spectrometer (APCI-IT-MS) at the boreal forest station SMEAR II at Hyytiälä, Finland, is demonstrated in this study. APCI is a soft-ionization technique allowing online measurements of organic acids in the gas and particle phase. The detection limit for the acid species in the particle phase was improved by a factor of 7.5 to 11 (e.g. ∼40 ng m3 for pinonic acid) by using the miniature versatile aerosol concentration enrichment system (mVACES) upstream of the mass spectrometer. The APCI-IT-MS was calibrated in the negative ion mode with two biogenic organic acid standards – pinic acid and pinonic acid. Pinic acid was used as a surrogate for the quantification of the total amount of organic acids in the ambient aerosol based on the total signal intensities in the negative ion mode. The results were compared with the total organic signal of a C-ToF-AMS during the HUMPPA-COPEC 2010 field campaign. The campaign average contribution of organic acids measured by APCI-IT-MS to the total submicron organic aerosol mass was estimated to be about 60%, based on the response of pinic acid. Very good correlation between APCI-IT-MS and C-ToF-AMS (Pearson's R = 0.94) demonstrates soft-ionization mass spectrometry as a complimentary technique to AMS with electron impact ionization. MS2 studies of specific m/z ratios recorded during the HUMPPA-COPEC 2010 field campaign were compared to MS2 studies of selected monoterpene oxidation products formed in simulation chamber experiments. The comparison of the resulting fragments shows that oxidation products of the main VOCs emitted at Hyytiälä (α-pinene and Δ3-carene) cannot account for all of the measured fragments. Possible explanations for those unaccounted fragments are the presence of unidentified or underestimated biogenic SOA precursors, or that different products are formed by a different oxidant mixture of the ambient air compared to the chamber ozonolysis.