High-resolution analysis of atmospheric Mass spectra: Identification, resolution, assignment of complex mass spectra

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The troposphere can contain thousands of organic molecules with widely varying carbon numbers and levels of oxidation. Unraveling this complex molecular mixture gives new insights into key processes such as atmospheric processing, secondary aerosol formation, radiative properties as well as implications for human health. High-resolution time-of-flight chemical ionization mass spectrometry (HRToF-CIMS) is a powerful technique with the potential to provide many insights into this complex mix of molecules. We have developed new data analysis techniques to identify the most likely ions present in complex mass spectra in which individual peaks strongly overlap. New ancillary algorithms will also be presented to first develop a list of all possible formulas for this particular ion chemistry and then to automatically assign possible ions to the likely peak positions. Spectral simulation experiments confirm that bulk elemental properties such as oxidation state and carbon number can be reliably extracted from this method. Comparison of results from a CIMS operated during the 2011 BEACHON-RoMBAS campaign in the Colorado Rocky Mountains to electrospray-ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry data from compounds measured in another forest in the Rockies allows a comparison of the compounds and compound classes measured by both techniques. We will also address the problem of quantifying ion signals from the organic molecule mix encountered in this study by a new method to calculate approximate sensitivities for acetate ionization chemistry to help quantifying concentrations of atmospheric compounds. We applied the above methods to a dataset from the micro-orifice volatilization impactor (MOVI)-CIMS collected during August 2011 as part of the BEACHON campaign. Calculated atmospheric bulk elemental parameters such as diurnal cycles of carbon number and oxidation state from both gas phase and aerosols from a pine forest environment will be presented and compared to data from other instruments, particularly the AMS. We will also compare the aerosol volatility distributions estimated from the elemental composition of the species detected and from the measured thermograms, which provides insights on oligomer presence and decomposition.

Publisher's Statement

Publisher's version of record: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015AGUFM.A32A..08S

Publication Title

AGU Fall Meeting 2015