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A Lightweight High-sensitivity Chemical Mass Spectrometer For Organic Compounds

J. Brito
Published 2012 · Environmental Science

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In this work a high-sensitivity Proton-Transfer-Reaction mass spectrometer (PTRMS) has been developed for airborne measurements of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The spectrometer has two notable new features, an unheated permeation source for continuous calibration and an ion funnel (IF) enhanced drift tube. The former is specially designed for airborne deployment and, moreover, increases the system dutycycle and accuracy. The latter has enhanced the system sensitivity in 30%, achieving a limit of detection in the low pptv range for usual VOCs (pptv = 10−12mol/mol), e.g. 4 pptv in 1min integration time for acetone. The new instrument, entitled PTR-IF-MS, shall be deployed on the new German research aircraft HALO, where lightweight construction is crucial. Almost entirely built in-house, the PTR-IF-MS weighs less than half of a standard PTR-MS system (57 kg instead of 120 kg). Besides instrumental development, the first long-term study of the correlation between acetone and carbon monoxide in the upper troposphere (UT) is presented. Often emitted due to similar sources (e.g. biomass burning or incomplete combustion), both species can show a good correlation in the UT. Furthermore, the ratio between them, i.e. the correlation slope, contains information on their sources and the following chemical processing in the atmosphere. The data used in this analysis were gathered over a period of 3 years onboard the CARIBIC passenger aircraft, where a strongly modified commercial PTR-MS, recently implemented with some features of the PTR-IF-MS, is regularly deployed. The correlation slope, given in pptv acetone/ppbv CO, shows a well pronounced increase with latitude. This parameter ranges from 12.2 at the equator to 33.9 at 60◦N during summertime and from 7.6 to 16.5 during wintertime.
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