Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Quantifying the Emission of Volatile Organic Compounds from Commercial Cooking using Gas Chromatography and Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry Public Deposited

Alternative Title
  • This project sought to quantify the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere from commercial cooking, using proton-transfer-reaction, time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-TOF MS). VOCs are an important group of compounds in atmospheric science, and have a wide variety of emission sources and environmental implications. VOCs related to commercial cooking have not been thoroughly researched, aside from a small number of experiments that used measurements of direct emissions, hence not reflecting these compounds’ transmission into ambient air. Using the Vocus-2R mass spectrometer from Tofwerk, this project collected real-time ambient data in the spring of 2021, as part of an ongoing study by the de Gouw group at the University of Colorado Boulder to evaluate VOCs in urban air. The compound furfural was used as a tracer to identify time periods containing plumes from nearby cooking sources, and compounds’ emission ratios with furfural were calculated as the linear regressions within these time periods. Gas chromatography (GC) was used to identify specific species of co-emitting formulas, and peak fitting was used to correct for background signals and generate adjusted emission ratios. Ultimately, 329 compounds up to mass 398 Thompson (Th) had their linear regression generated, giving the first cooking-related emission profiles for aldehydes above 18 carbons, in addition to corrected emission ratios for heptanal and 7 other low signal species of the formulas C7H12 and C7H12O2. Ultimately, heptanal’s emission ratio with furfural was much lower than previous studies of direct emissions, reflecting loss of compounds through ventilation before entering the atmosphere. The adjusted emission ratios for lower signal species proved a viable method, albeit with large uncertainties due to limitations in data available. Future projects with an instrumental setup specifically tailored for cooking plume analysis will provide a large enough sample size to reduce uncertainty and give robust ambient emission profiles for low signal species.

Date Awarded
  • 2022-04-05
Academic Affiliation
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Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2022-04-12
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