Application of direct thermal desorption gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry for determination of nonpolar organics in low-volume samples from ambient particulate matter and personal samplers
Direct thermal desorption and in-situ derivatization thermal desorption methods in conjunction with gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry have been characterized and evaluated for analysis of trace components from filters loaded with ambient particulate matter (PM). The limits of quantification were in the range of 7–24 pg for n -alkanes, 20 pg for hopanes, and 4–22 pg for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The limit of quantification was defined as the minimum amount of substance that conforms to the minimum distinguishable signal plus 9 times the standard deviation of this background signal from PM-loaded filters. The method has been successfully applied to low-volume samples from ambient PM collected with stationary and personal samplers. Stationary samples were collected in winter 2008 and 2010 in Augsburg, Germany. Sample aliquots of 0.2-0.3 m³ from stationary sampling were analyzed. High diurnal variation in concentration and source contribution was found especially during periods with low wind speed and low mixing layer height. High contributions of solid fuel combustion (wood and coal) were found in evening and nighttime samples, leading to peak PAH concentrations at midnight more than 10 times higher than at noon. Finally, the method was applied to samples collected by means of a personal sampler, i.e. a micro aethalometer, in Xi’an, China. Quantitative data on n -alkanes, hopanes, and PAH were obtained from sample volumes of 17 and 24 l. The impact of different sources such as vehicular and biogenic emissions could be distinguished. Figure Left side: “personal sampling” with Micro Aethalometer (microAeth® Model AE51, Magee Scientific, USA), right: section of the chromatograms from low volume personal samples showing mass trace m/z= 276.