Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2024-20
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2024-20
20 Feb 2024
 | 20 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

A Nitrate Ion Chemical Ionization Atmospheric Pressure interface Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer (NO3 ToFCIMS): calibration and sensitivity study

Stéphanie Alage, Vincent Michoud, Sergio Harb, Bénédicte Picquet-Varrault, Manuela Cirtog, Avinash Kumar, Matti Rissanen, and Christopher Cantrell

Abstract. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) play a key role in tropospheric chemistry, giving rise to secondary products such as highly oxygenated organic molecules (HOMs) and secondary organic aerosols (SOA). HOMs, a group of low-volatility gas-phase products, are formed through the autoxidation process of peroxy radicals (RO2) originating from the oxidation of VOCs. The measurement of HOMs is made by a NO3¯ ToFCIMS instrument, which also detects other species like small highly oxygenated VOCs (e.g. dicarboxylic acids) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4). The instrument response to HOMs is typically estimated using H2SO4, as HOMs are neither commercially available nor easily synthesized in the laboratory. The resulting calibration factor is then applied to quantify all species detected using this technique. In this study, we explore the sensitivity of the instrument to commercially available small organic compounds, primarily dicarboxylic acids, given the limitations associated with producing known amounts of HOMs for calibration. We compare these single compound calibration factors to the one obtained for H2SO4 under identical operational conditions. The study found that the sensitivity of the NO3¯ ToFCIMS varies depending on the specific type of organic compound, illustrating how a single calibration factor derived from sulfuric acid is clearly inadequate for quantifying all detected species using this technique. The results highlighted substantial variability in the calibration factors for the tested organic compounds, with 4-nitrocatechol exhibiting the highest sensitivity, and pyruvic acid the lowest. The obtained sulfuric acid calibration factor agreed well with the previous values from the literature. In summary, this research emphasized the need to develop reliable and precise calibration methods for progressively oxygenated reaction products measure with NO3¯ CIMS, for example, HOMs.

Stéphanie Alage, Vincent Michoud, Sergio Harb, Bénédicte Picquet-Varrault, Manuela Cirtog, Avinash Kumar, Matti Rissanen, and Christopher Cantrell

Status: open (until 23 Apr 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2024-20', Anonymous Referee #1, 22 Mar 2024 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2024-20', Anonymous Referee #2, 15 Apr 2024 reply
Stéphanie Alage, Vincent Michoud, Sergio Harb, Bénédicte Picquet-Varrault, Manuela Cirtog, Avinash Kumar, Matti Rissanen, and Christopher Cantrell
Stéphanie Alage, Vincent Michoud, Sergio Harb, Bénédicte Picquet-Varrault, Manuela Cirtog, Avinash Kumar, Matti Rissanen, and Christopher Cantrell

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Short summary
Calibration exercises are essential for determining the accuracy of instruments. We performed calibrations on a NO3¯ ToFCIMS instrument to determine its sensitivity and linearity for detecting various organic compounds. Our findings revealed significant variability, over several orders of magnitude, in the calibration factors obtained. The results suggest that relying on a single calibration factor from H2SO4 for the quantification of all compounds detected by this technique is not appropriate.