Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
Research article
20 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 20 Mar 2015

A novel inlet system for online chemical analysis of semi-volatile submicron particulate matter

P. Eichler, M. Müller, B. D'Anna, and A. Wisthaler

Abstract. We herein present a novel modular inlet system designed to be coupled to low-pressure gas analyzers for online chemical characterization of semi-volatile submicron particles. The "chemical analysis of aerosol online" (CHARON) inlet consists of a gas-phase denuder for stripping off gas-phase analytes, an aerodynamic lens for particle collimation combined with an inertial sampler for the particle-enriched flow and a thermodesorption unit for particle volatilization prior to chemical analysis. The denuder was measured to remove gas-phase organics with an efficiency > 99.999% and to transmit particles in the 100–750 nm size range with a 75–90% efficiency. The measured average particle enrichment factor in the subsampling flow from the aerodynamic lens was 25.6, which is a factor of 3 lower than the calculated theoretical optimum.

We coupled the CHARON inlet to a proton-transfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometer (PTR-ToF-MS) which quantitatively detects most organic analytes and ammonia. The combined CHARON-PTR-ToF-MS setup is thus capable of measuring both the organic and the ammonium fraction in submicron particles in real time. Individual organic compounds can be detected down to levels of 10–20 ng m−3. Two proof-of-principle studies were carried out for demonstrating the analytical power of this new instrumental setup: (i) oxygenated organics and their partitioning between the gas and the particulate phase were observed from the reaction of limonene with ozone and (ii) nicotine was measured in cigarette smoke particles demonstrating that selected organic target compounds can be detected in submicron particles in real time.