Articles | Volume 8, issue 10
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 4001–4011, 2015
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 4001–4011, 2015

Research article 01 Oct 2015

Research article | 01 Oct 2015

Bisulfate – cluster based atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometer for high-sensitivity (< 100 ppqV) detection of atmospheric dimethyl amine: proof-of-concept and first ambient data from boreal forest

M. Sipilä1, N. Sarnela1, T. Jokinen1, H. Junninen1, J. Hakala1,2, M. P. Rissanen1, A. Praplan1,3, M. Simon4, A. Kürten4, F. Bianchi5,6, J. Dommen5, J. Curtius4, T. Petäjä1, and D. R. Worsnop1,7,8 M. Sipilä et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, P.O. Box 64, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
  • 3Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, 00101 Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Goethe-University of Frankfurt, Altenhöferallee 1, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 5Laboratory for Atmospheric Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen, Switzerland
  • 6Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 7Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
  • 8Aerodyne Research Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts 01821, USA

Abstract. Atmospheric amines may play a crucial role in formation of new aerosol particles via nucleation with sulfuric acid. Recent studies have revealed that concentrations below 1 pptV can significantly promote nucleation of sulfuric acid particles. While sulfuric acid detection is relatively straightforward, no amine measurements to date have been able to reach the critical sub-pptV concentration range and atmospheric amine concentrations are in general poorly characterized. In this work we present a proof-of-concept of an instrument capable of detecting dimethyl amine (DMA) with concentrations even down to 70 ppqV (parts per quadrillion, 0.07 pptV) for a 15 min integration time. Detection of ammonia and amines other than dimethyl amine is discussed. We also report results from the first ambient measurements performed in spring 2013 at a boreal forest site. While minute signals above the signal-to-noise ratio that could be attributed to trimethyl or propyl amine were observed, DMA concentration never exceeded the detection threshold of ambient measurements (150 ppqV), thereby questioning, though not excluding, the role of DMA in nucleation at this location.

Short summary
Atmospheric concentrations of amines are poorly known mainly due to challenges related to their reliable high-sensitivity detection. We have created a method and instrument that is capable for detecting amines with lowest limit of detection of around 0.01 parts per trillion. Application of the instrument in the field study indicates that concentrations of dimethyl amine in a boreal forest site are below 0.03ppt, not enough to account for the observed new particle formation rates.