Thermal desorption/pyrolysis coupled with photoionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry for the analysis of molecular organic compounds and oligomeric polymeric fractions in Urban particulate matter.
Atmospheric aerosols are subject to be responsible for human health effects. In this context, besides mass and number concentration of particles, their chemical composition has gained interest recently. However, knowledge about the organic content of particulate matter is still relatively scarce; i.e., only 10-40% of compounds present in the aerosol are as yet identified. By means of a newly developed measurement technique, thermal desorption/ photoionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOFMS), organic species evolved from urban aerosol samples collected at Augsburg, Germany, are analyzed. Thereby, compounds desorbed according to a temperature protocol following procedures for OC/EC analysis (120, 250, and 340 degrees C as desorbing temperatures) are ionized by soft, fragmentationless resonance multiphoton ionization (REM-PI) and single photon ionization (SPI), respectively. With REMPI-TOFMS, a large variety of PAH is detectable. A comprehensive analysis is enabled by adding SPI-TOFMS, which gives access to aliphatic and carbonylic hydrocarbons as well as alkanoic acids and esters. Analysis of the data showed a high abundance of phenol and guiacol as well as retene, which are known markers for wood combustion. Similar patterns were found with ash from spruce wood combustion. An increase of volatile substances at 340 degrees C gave rise to the suggestion that these compounds are re-formed by pyrolytic decomposition reactions from oligomeric, polymeric, and polyfunctional oxygenated species. This was corroborated by the investigation of the behavior of cellulose acetate, which exhibited a similar pattern in its SPI-TOFMS spectrum at 340 degrees C as the aerosol. More thorough investigations of urban aerosol and source material with respect to problems such as the mass closure of carbonaceous material, indications for source apportionment, and allotment of organic species on a molecular level to fractions of organic and elemental carbon seem feasible with this measurement method.