Articles | Volume 7, issue 5
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 1259–1275, 2014
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 1259–1275, 2014

Research article 15 May 2014

Research article | 15 May 2014

A novel fast gas chromatography method for higher time resolution measurements of speciated monoterpenes in air

C. E. Jones1,2, S. Kato3, Y. Nakashima4, and Y. Kajii1,2 C. E. Jones et al.
  • 1Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8501, Japan
  • 2Center for Regional Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba City, Ibaraki, 305-8506, Japan
  • 3Department of Applied Chemistry, Faculty of Urban Environmental Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University, 1-1 Minami-Osawa, Hachioji, Tokyo, 192–0397, Japan
  • 4Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, 3-5-8 Saiwai-cho, Fuchu, Tokyo, 183-8538, Japan

Abstract. Biogenic emissions supply the largest fraction of non-methane volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the biosphere to the atmospheric boundary layer, and typically comprise a complex mixture of reactive terpenes. Due to this chemical complexity, achieving comprehensive measurements of biogenic VOC (BVOC) in air within a satisfactory time resolution is analytically challenging. To address this, we have developed a novel, fully automated Fast Gas Chromatography (Fast-GC) based technique to provide higher time resolution monitoring of monoterpenes (and selected other C9-C15 terpenes) during plant emission studies and in ambient air. To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply a Fast-GC based separation technique to achieve quantification of terpenes in ambient air. Three chromatography methods have been developed for atmospheric terpene analysis under different sampling scenarios. Each method facilitates chromatographic separation of selected BVOC within a significantly reduced analysis time compared to conventional GC methods, whilst maintaining the ability to quantify individual monoterpene structural isomers. Using this approach, the C9-C15 BVOC composition of single plant emissions may be characterised within a 14.5 min analysis time. Moreover, in-situ quantification of 12 monoterpenes in unpolluted ambient air may be achieved within an 11.7 min chromatographic separation time (increasing to 19.7 min when simultaneous quantification of multiple oxygenated C9-C10 terpenoids is required, and/or when concentrations of anthropogenic VOC are significant). These analysis times potentially allow for a twofold to fivefold increase in measurement frequency compared to conventional GC methods. Here we outline the technical details and analytical capability of this chromatographic approach, and present the first in-situ Fast-GC observations of 6 monoterpenes and the oxygenated BVOC (OBVOC) linalool in ambient air. During this field deployment within a suburban forest ~30 km west of central Tokyo, Japan, the Fast-GC limit of detection with respect to monoterpenes was 4–5 ppt, and the agreement between Fast-GC and PTR-MS derived total monoterpene mixing ratios was consistent with previous GC/PTR-MS comparisons. The measurement uncertainties associated with the Fast-GC quantification of monoterpenes are ≤ 12%, while larger uncertainties (up to ~25%) are associated with the OBVOC and sesquiterpene measurements.