Characterization of a catalyst-based conversion technique to measure total particulate nitrogen and organic carbon and comparison to a particle mass measurement instrument

Chelsea E. Stockwell, Agnieszka Kupc, Bartlomiej Witkowski, Ranajit K. Talukdar, Yong Liu, Vanessa Selimovic, Kyle J. Zarzana, Kanako Sekimoto, Carsten Warneke, Rebecca A. Washenfelder, Robert J. Yokelson, Ann M. Middlebrook, James M. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The chemical composition of aerosol particles is a key aspect in determining their impact on the environment. For example, nitrogen-containing particles impact atmospheric chemistry, air quality, and ecological N deposition. Instruments that measure total reactive nitrogen (Nr Combining double low line all nitrogen compounds except for N2 and N2O) focus on gas-phase nitrogen and very few studies directly discuss the instrument capacity to measure the mass of Nr-containing particles. Here, we investigate the mass quantification of particle-bound nitrogen using a custom Nr system that involves total conversion to nitric oxide (NO) across platinum and molybdenum catalysts followed by NOĝ'O3 chemiluminescence detection. We evaluate the particle conversion of the Nr instrument by comparing to mass-derived concentrations of size-selected and counted ammonium sulfate ((NH4)2SO4), ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), ammonium chloride (NH4Cl), sodium nitrate (NaNO3), and ammonium oxalate ((NH4)2C2O4) particles determined using instruments that measure particle number and size. These measurements demonstrate Nr-particle conversion across the Nr catalysts that is independent of particle size with 98ĝ€±ĝ€10ĝ€% efficiency for 100-600ĝ€nm particle diameters. We also show efficient conversion of particle-phase organic carbon species to CO2 across the instrument's platinum catalyst followed by a nondispersive infrared (NDIR) CO2 detector. However, the application of this method to the atmosphere presents a challenge due to the small signal above background at high ambient levels of common gas-phase carbon compounds (e.g., CO2). We show the Nr system is an accurate particle mass measurement method and demonstrate its ability to calibrate particle mass measurement instrumentation using single-component, laboratory-generated, Nr-containing particles below 2.5ĝ€μm in size. In addition we show agreement with mass measurements of an independently calibrated online particle-into-liquid sampler directly coupled to the electrospray ionization source of a quadrupole mass spectrometer (PILS-ESI/MS) sampling in the negative-ion mode. We obtain excellent correlations (R2ĝ€Combining double low line 0.99) of particle mass measured as Nr with PILS-ESI/MS measurements converted to the corresponding particle anion mass (e.g., nitrate, sulfate, and chloride). The Nr and PILS-ESI/MS are shown to agree to within ĝ1/4ĝ€6ĝ€% for particle mass loadings of up to 120ĝ€μgĝ€mĝ'3. Consideration of all the sources of error in the PILS-ESI/MS technique yields an overall uncertainty of ±20ĝ€% for these single-component particle streams. These results demonstrate the Nr system is a reliable direct particle mass measurement technique that differs from other particle instrument calibration techniques that rely on knowledge of particle size, shape, density, and refractive index.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2746-2764
Number of pages19
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 14 2018


FundersFunder number
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science18K05179


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