Articles | Volume 7, issue 10
Research article
08 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 08 Oct 2014

Characterisation of an inlet pre-injector laser-induced fluorescence instrument for the measurement of atmospheric hydroxyl radicals

A. Novelli, K. Hens, C. Tatum Ernest, D. Kubistin, E. Regelin, T. Elste, C. Plass-Dülmer, M. Martinez, J. Lelieveld, and H. Harder

Abstract. Atmospheric measurements of hydroxyl radicals (OH) are challenging due to a high reactivity and consequently low concentration. The importance of OH as an atmospheric oxidant has motivated a sustained effort leading to the development of a number of highly sensitive analytical techniques. Recent work has indicated that the laser-induced fluorescence of the OH molecules method based on the fluorescence assay by gas expansion technique (LIF-FAGE) for the measurement of atmospheric OH in some environments may be influenced by artificial OH generated within the instrument, and a chemical method to remove this interference was implemented in a LIF-FAGE system by Mao et al. (2012). While it is not clear whether other LIF-FAGE instruments suffer from the same interference, we have applied this method to our LIF-FAGE HORUS (Hydroxyl Radical Measurement Unit based on fluorescence Spectroscopy) system, and developed and deployed an inlet pre-injector (IPI) to determine the chemical zero level in the instrument via scavenging the ambient OH radical.

We describe and characterise this technique in addition to its application at field sites in forested locations in Finland, Spain and Germany. Ambient measurements show that OH generated within the HORUS instrument is a non-negligible fraction of the total OH signal, which can comprise 30 to 80% during daytime and 60 to 100% during the night. The contribution of the background OH varied greatly between measurement sites and was likely related to the type and concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present at each particular location. Two inter-comparisons in contrasting environments between the HORUS instrument and two different chemical ionisation mass spectrometers (CIMS) are described to demonstrate the efficacy of IPI and the necessity of the chemical zeroing method for our LIF-FAGE instrument in such environments.