Organic aerosols, as an important fraction of airborne particulate mass, significantly affect the environment, climate, and human health. Compared with inorganic species, characterization of individual organic compounds is much less complete and comprehensive because they number in thousands or more and are diverse in chemical structures. The source contributions of organic aerosols are far from being well understood because they can be emitted from a variety of sources as well as formed from photochemical reactions of numerous precursors. This thesis work aims to improve the characterization of polar organic compounds and source apportionment analysis of fine organic carbon (OC) in Hong Kong, which consists of two parts:
1. An improved analytical method to determine monocarboxylic acids, dicarboxylic acids, ketocarboxylic acids, and dicarbonyls collected on filter substrates has been established. These oxygenated compounds were determined as their butyl ester or butyl acetal derivatives using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The new method made improvements over the original Kawamura method by eliminating the water extraction and evaporation steps. Aerosol materials were directly mixed with the BF3
/BuOH derivatization agent and the extracting solvent hexane. This modification improves recoveries for both the more volatile and the less water-soluble compounds. This improved method was applied to study the abundances and sources of these oxygenated compounds in PM2.5
aerosol samples collected in Hong Kong under different synoptic conditions during 2003-2005. These compounds account for on average 5.2% of OC (range: 1.4%-13.6%) on a carbon basis. Oxalic acid was the most abundant species. Six C2
oxygenated compounds, namely oxalic, malonic, glyoxylic, pyruvic acids, glyoxal, and methylglyoxal, dominated this suite of oxygenated compounds. More efforts are therefore suggested to focus on these small compounds in understanding the role of oxygenated compounds in aerosol chemistry and physics. By reference to tracers for the major organic aerosol sources, it is deduced that the oxygenated compounds are mainly of secondary origin and direct/indirect contribution from biomass burning could also be important. The chemical composition of these oxygenated species in PM2.5
samples in Hong Kong provide useful information to further ambient and model study in the aspects of chemical formation pathways and speciated organic mass distribution.
2. Source apportionment of PM2.5
organic aerosols in Hong Kong were carried out in two studies. In the first study, chemical characterization and source analysis involved samples collected on high particulate matter (PM) days (avg. PM2.5
>84 μg m-3
) at six general stations and one roadside station from October to December in 2003. Analysis of synoptic weather conditions identified three types of high PM episodes: local, regional transport (RT) and long-range transport (LRT). Roadside samples were discussed separately. Using chemical mass balance (CMB) model, contributions of major primary sources (vehicle exhaust, cooking, biomass burning, cigarette smoke, vegetative detritus, and coal combustion) were estimated, which indicate that vehicle exhaust was the most important primary source, followed by cooking and biomass burning. All primary sources except vegetative detritus had the highest contributions at roadside station, in line with its site characteristics. Primary sources dominated roadside and local samples (>64% of fine OC), while un-apportioned OC (i.e., the difference between measured OC and apportioned primary OC) dominated RT and LRT episodes (>60% of fine OC) and un-apportioned OC had characteristics of secondary OC.
In the second study, cold front episodes during winter 2004 and 2005 were targeted to investigate the effect of cold front-related LRT on chemical characteristics and organic aerosol sources of PM2.5
in Hong Kong. In comparison with days under influences of mainly local emissions or RT, cold front LRT brought more organic aerosols attributable to coal combustion and biomass burning. Both cold front episodes and RT brought in significant amount of secondary OC to Hong Kong. The relative abundances of major aerosol constituents (sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, organic matter, and elemental carbon) were similar in cold front periods and RT-dominated periods.
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