Using multidimensional gas chromatography to group secondary organic aerosol species by functionality

Document Type


Publication Date



A carbon number-functionality grid (CNFG) for a complex mixture of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) precursors and oxidation products was developed from the theoretical retention index diagram of a multidimensional gas chromatographic (GC×2GC) analysis of a mixture of SOA precursors and derivatized oxidation products. In the GC×2GC analysis, comprehensive separation of the complex mixture was achieved by diverting the modulated effluent from a polar primary column into 2 polar secondary columns. Column stationary phases spanned the widest range of selectivity of commercially available GC analytic columns. In general, separation of the species by the polar primary column was by the number of carbon atoms in the molecule (when the homologous series of reference compounds was selected to have molecular volumes and functionalities similar to the target analytes) and the polar secondary columns provided additional separation according to functionality. An algebraic transformation of the Abraham solvation parameter model was used to estimate linear retention indices of solutes relative to elution of a homologous series of methyl diesters on the primary and secondary columns to develop the theoretical GC×2GC retention diagram. Retention indices of many of the oxidation products of SOA precursors were estimated for derivatized forms of the solutes. The GC stationary phases selected for the primary column [(50%-Trifluoropropyl)-methylpolysiloxane] and secondary columns (90% Cyanopropyl Polysilphenylene-siloxane and Polyethylene Glycol in a Sol-Gel matrix) provided a theoretical separation of 33 SOA precursors and 98 derivatized oxidation products into 35 groups by molecular volume and functionality. Comprehensive analysis of extracts of vapor and aerosol samples containing semivolatile SOA precursors and oxidation products, respectively, is best accomplished by (1) separating the complex mixture of the vapor and underivatized aerosol extracts with a (50%-Trifluoropropyl)-methylpolysiloxane×90% Cyanopropyl Polysilphenylene-siloxane×Polyethylene Glycol in a Sol-Gel matrix arrangement and (2) derivatizing the aerosol extract and reanalyzing the sample on the GC×2GC column combination. Quantifying groupings and organic molecular species in time series of collections of vapor- and aerosol-phase atmospheric organic matter is a promising analytic technique for measuring production of SOA and evaluating transformations of SOA precursors. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Atmospheric Environment