Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in urban air: How chemistry affects the interpretation of positive matrix factorization (PMF) analysis
Journal of Geophysical Research , Volume 117; doi:10.1029/2012jd018236
Abstract:  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured online at an urban site in Beijing in August–September 2010. Diurnal variations of various VOC species indicate that VOCs concentrations were influenced by photochemical removal with OH radicals for reactive species and secondary formation for oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs). A photochemical age‐based parameterization method was applied to characterize VOCs chemistry. A large part of the variability in concentrations of both hydrocarbons and OVOCs was explained by this method. The determined emission ratios of hydrocarbons to acetylene agreed within a factor of two between 2005 and 2010 measurements. However, large differences were found for emission ratios of some alkanes and C8 aromatics between Beijing and northeastern United States secondary formation from anthropogenic VOCs generally contributed higher percentages to concentrations of reactive aldehydes than those of inert ketones and alcohols. Anthropogenic primary emissions accounted for the majority of ketones and alcohols concentrations. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) was also used to identify emission sources from this VOCs data set. The four resolved factors were three anthropogenic factors and a biogenic factor. However, the anthropogenic factors are attributed here to a common source at different stages of photochemical processing rather than three independent sources. Anthropogenic and biogenic sources of VOCs concentrations were not separated completely in PMF. This study indicates that photochemistry of VOCs in the atmosphere complicates the information about separated sources that can be extracted from PMF and the influence of photochemical processing must be carefully considered in the interpretation of source apportionment studies based upon PMF.
Keywords: VOCs / volatile organic compounds / Alkanes / Beijing / photochemistry / PMF / Alcohols / acetylene
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