Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Ambient aerosol sampling using the Aerodyne Aerosol Mass Spectrometer

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Abstract

[1] The Aerodyne Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS) has been designed to measure size-resolved mass distributions and total mass loadings of volatile and semivolatile chemical species in/on submicron particles. This paper describes the application of this instrument to ambient aerosol sampling. The AMS uses an aerodynamic lens to focus the particles into a narrow beam, a roughened cartridge heater to vaporize them under high vacuum, and a quadrupole mass spectrometer to analyze the vaporized molecules. Particle size is measured via particle time-of-flight. The AMS is operated in two modes: (1) a continuous mass spectrum mode without size information; and (2) a size distribution measurement mode for selected m/z settings of the quadrupole. Single particles can also be detected and sized if they have enough mass of a chemical component. The AMS was deployed at a ground sampling site near downtown Atlanta during August 1999, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency/Southern Oxidant Study Particulate Matter “Supersite” experiment, and at a suburban location in the Boston area during September 1999. The major observed components of the aerosol at both sites were sulfate and organics with a minor fraction of nitrate, consistent with prior studies and colocated instruments. Different aerosol chemical components often had different size distributions and time evolutions. More than half of the sulfate mass was contained in 2% of the ambient particles in one of the sampling periods. Trends in mass concentrations of sulfate and nitrate measured with the AMS in Atlanta compare well with those measured with ion chromatography-based instruments. A marked diurnal cycle was observed for aerosol nitrate in Atlanta. A simple model fit is used to illustrate the integration of data from several chemical components measured by the AMS together with data from other particle instruments into a coherent representation of the ambient aerosol.

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