Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2021-263
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2021-263

  06 Sep 2021

06 Sep 2021

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

A Systematic Re-evaluation of Methods for Quantification of Bulk Particle-phase Organic Nitrates Using Real-time Aerosol Mass Spectrometry

Douglas A. Day1,2, Pedro Campuzano-Jost1,2, Benjamin A. Nault1,2,a, Brett B. Palm1,2,b, Weiwei Hu1,2,c, Hongyu Guo1,2, Paul J. Wooldridge3, Ronald C. Cohen3,4, Kenneth S. Docherty5, J. Alex Huffman6, Suzane S. de Sá7, Scot T. Martin7,8, and Jose L. Jimenez1,2 Douglas A. Day et al.
  • 1Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2Dept. of Chemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Department of Chemistry, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 4Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 5Jacobs Technology, Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC, USA
  • 6Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Denver, Denver, CO USA
  • 7School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • 8Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • anow at: Center for Aerosol and Cloud Chemistry, Aerodyne Research Inc., Billerica, MA, USA
  • bnow at: Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • cnow at: State Key Laboratory at Organic Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China

Abstract. Organic nitrate (RONO2) formation in the atmosphere represents a sink of NOx (NOx = NO + NO2) and termination of the NOx/HOx (HOx = HO2 + OH) ozone formation and radical propagation cycles, can act as a NOx reservoir transporting reactive nitrogen, and contributes to secondary organic aerosol formation. While some fraction of RONO2 is thought to reside in the particle phase, particle-phase organic nitrates (pRONO2) are infrequently measured and thus poorly understood. There is an increasing prevalence of aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) instruments, which have shown promise for determining quantitative total organic nitrate functional group contribution to aerosols. A simple approach that relies on the relative intensities of NO+ and NO2+ ions in the AMS spectrum, the calibrated NOx+ ratio for NH4NO3, and the inferred ratio for pRONO2 has been proposed as a way to apportion the total nitrate signal to NH4NO3 and pRONO2. This method is increasingly being applied to field and laboratory data. However, the methods applied have been largely inconsistent and poorly characterized, and therefore, a detailed evaluation is timely. Here, we compile an extensive survey of NOx+ ratios measured for various pRONO2 compounds and mixtures from multiple AMS instruments, groups, and laboratory and field measurements. We show that, in the absence of pRONO2 standards, the pRONO2 NOx+ ratio can be estimated using a ratio referenced to the calibrated NH4NO3 ratio, a so-called Ratio-of-Ratios method (RoR = 2.75 ± 0.41). We systematically explore the basis for quantifying pRONO2 (and NH4NO3) with the RoR method using ground and aircraft field measurements conducted over a large range of conditions. The method is compared to another AMS method (positive matrix factorization, PMF) and other pRONO2 and related (e.g., total gas + particle RONO2) measurements, generally showing good agreement/correlation. A broad survey of ground and aircraft AMS measurements shows a pervasive trend of higher fractional contribution of pRONO2 to total nitrate with lower total nitrate concentrations, which generally corresponds to shifts from urban-influenced to rural/remote regions. Compared to ground campaigns, observations from all aircraft campaigns showed substantially lower pRONO2 contributions at mid ranges of total nitrate (0.01–0.1 up to 2–5 μg m−3), suggesting that the balance of effects controlling NH4NO3 and pRONO2 formation and lifetimes — such as higher humidity, lower temperatures, greater dilution, different sources, higher particle acidity, and pRONO2 hydrolysis (possibly accelerated by particle acidity) — favors lower pRONO2 contributions for those environments and altitudes sampled.

Douglas A. Day et al.

Status: open (until 14 Oct 2021)

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Douglas A. Day et al.

Douglas A. Day et al.

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Short summary
Particle-phase nitrates are an important component of atmospheric aerosols and chemistry. In this manuscript, we systematically explore the application of aerosol mass spectrometry (AMS) to quantify the organic and inorganic nitrate fractions of aerosols in the atmosphere. While AMS has been used for a decade to quantify nitrates, methods are not standardized. We make recommendations for a more universal approach based on this analysis of a large range of field and laboratory observations.