Polar organic marker compounds in PM2.5 aerosol from a mixed forest site in western Germany

I. Kourtchev, J. Warnke, W. Maenhaut, T. Hoffmann, M. Claeys

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The molecular composition of PM2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter <2.5 μm) aerosol samples collected during a very warm and dry 2003 summer period at a mixed forest site in Jülich, Germany, was determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry in an effort to evaluate photooxidation products of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) and other markers for aerosol source characterization. Six major classes of compounds represented by twenty-four individual organic species were identified and measured, comprising tracers for biomass combustion, short-chain acids, fatty acids, sugars/sugar alcohols, and tracers for the photooxidation of isoprene and α-/β-pinene. The tracers for the photooxidation of α-/β-pinene include two compounds, 3-hydroxyglutaric acid and 3-methyl-1,2,3-butanetricarboxylic acid, which have only recently been elucidated. The characteristic molecular distribution of the fatty acids with a strong even/odd number carbon preference indicates a biological origin, while the presence of isoprene and terpene secondary organic aerosol products suggests that the photooxidation of BVOCs contributes to aerosol formation at this site. The sum of the median concentrations of the isoprene oxidation products was 21.2 ng m−3, while that of the terpene oxidation products was 19.8 ng m−3. On the other hand, the high median concentration of malic acid (37 ng m−3) implies that photooxidation of unsaturated fatty acids should also be considered as an important aerosol source process. In addition, the occurrence of levoglucosan and pyrogallol indicates that the site is affected by biomass combustion. Their median concentrations were 30 and 8.9 ng m−3, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1308-1314
Number of pages7
Issue number8
Early online date16 Aug 2008
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Secondary organic aerosol
  • Isopreneα-/β-pinene
  • Gas chromatography/Mass spectrometry
  • Levoglucosan


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