Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-14-2018

Publication Title

Atmospheric Measurement Techniques

ISSN

1867-8548

Volume

11

Issue

5

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/amt-11-2749-2018

Abstract

The chemical composition of aerosol particles is a key aspect in determining their impact on the environment. For example, nitrogen-containing particles impact atmospheric chemistry, air quality, and ecological N deposition. Instruments that measure total reactive nitrogen (Nr = all nitrogen compounds except for N2 and N2O) focus on gas-phase nitrogen and very few studies directly discuss the instrument capacity to measure the mass of Nr-containing particles. Here, we investigate the mass quantification of particle-bound nitrogen using a custom Nr system that involves total conversion to nitric oxide (NO) across platinum and molybdenum catalysts followed by NO−O3 chemiluminescence detection. We evaluate the particle conversion of the Nr instrument by comparing to mass-derived concentrations of size-selected and counted ammonium sulfate ((NH4)2SO4), ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), ammonium chloride (NH4Cl), sodium nitrate (NaNO3), and ammonium oxalate ((NH4)2C2O4) particles determined using instruments that measure particle number and size. These measurements demonstrate Nr-particle conversion across the Nr catalysts that is independent of particle size with 98 ± 10 % efficiency for 100–600 nm particle diameters. We also show efficient conversion of particle-phase organic carbon species to CO2 across the instrument's platinum catalyst followed by a nondispersive infrared (NDIR) CO2 detector. However, the application of this method to the atmosphere presents a challenge due to the small signal above background at high ambient levels of common gas-phase carbon compounds (e.g., CO2). We show the Nr system is an accurate particle mass measurement method and demonstrate its ability to calibrate particle mass measurement instrumentation using single-component, laboratory-generated, Nr-containing particles below 2.5 µm in size. In addition we show agreement with mass measurements of an independently calibrated online particle-into-liquid sampler directly coupled to the electrospray ionization source of a quadrupole mass spectrometer (PILS–ESI/MS) sampling in the negative-ion mode. We obtain excellent correlations (R2 = 0.99) of particle mass measured as Nr with PILS–ESI/MS measurements converted to the corresponding particle anion mass (e.g., nitrate, sulfate, and chloride). The Nr and PILS–ESI/MS are shown to agree to within ∼ 6 % for particle mass loadings of up to 120 µg m−3. Consideration of all the sources of error in the PILS–ESI/MS technique yields an overall uncertainty of ±20 % for these single-component particle streams. These results demonstrate the Nr system is a reliable direct particle mass measurement technique that differs from other particle instrument calibration techniques that rely on knowledge of particle size, shape, density, and refractive index.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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