07 Jun 2021

07 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Development of an In Situ Dual-Channel Thermal Desorption Gas Chromatography Instrument for Consistent Quantification of Volatile, Intermediate Volatility and Semivolatile Organic Compounds

Rebecca A. Wernis1,2, Nathan M. Kreisberg3, Robert J. Weber2, Yutong Liang2, John Jayne4, Susanne Hering3, and Allen H. Goldstein1,2 Rebecca A. Wernis et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA
  • 2Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA
  • 3Aerosol Dynamics, Inc., Berkeley, CA, 94710, USA
  • 4Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, MA, 01821, USA

Abstract. Aerosols are a source of great uncertainty in radiative forcing predictions and have poorly understood health impacts. Most aerosol mass is formed in the atmosphere from reactive gas phase organic precursors, forming secondary organic aerosol (SOA). Semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) (effective saturation concentration, C*, of 10−1–103 μg m−3) comprise a large fraction of organic aerosol, while intermediate volatility organic compounds (IVOCs) (C* of 103–106 μg m−3) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (C* ≥ 106 μg m−3) are gas phase precursors to SOA and ozone.

The Comprehensive Thermal Desorption Aerosol Gas Chromatograph (cTAG) is the first single instrument simultaneously quantitative for a broad range of compound-specific VOCs, IVOCs and SVOCs. cTAG is a two-channel instrument which measures concentrations of C5–C16 alkane equivalent volatility VOCs and IVOCs on one channel and C14–C32 SVOCs on the other coupled to a single High Resolution Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer, achieving consistent quantification across 15 orders of magnitude of vapor pressure. cTAG obtains concentrations hourly and gas–particle partitioning for SVOCs bihourly, enabling observation of the evolution of these species through oxidation and partitioning into the particle phase. Online derivatization for the SVOC channel enables detection of more polar and oxidized species.

In this work we present design details and data evaluating key parameters of instrument performance such as I/VOC collector design optimization, linearity and reproducibility of calibration curves obtained using a custom liquid evaporation system for I/VOCs and the effect of an ozone removal filter on instrument performance. Example timelines of precursors with secondary products are shown and analysis of a subset of compounds detectable by cTAG demonstrates some of the analytical possibilities with this instrument.

Rebecca A. Wernis et al.

Status: open (until 02 Aug 2021)

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Rebecca A. Wernis et al.

Rebecca A. Wernis et al.


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Short summary
cTAG is a new scientific instrument that measures concentrations of organic chemicals in the atmosphere. cTAG is the first instrument capable of measuring small, light chemicals as well as heavier chemicals and everything in between on a single detector, every hour. In this work we explain how cTAG works and some of the tests we performed to verify that it works properly and reliably. We also present measurements of alkanes that suggest they have three dominant sources in a Bay Area suburb.