Direct surface analysis of time-resolved aerosol impactor samples with ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry.
Aerosol particles in the atmosphere strongly influence the Earth's climate and human health, but the quantification of their effects is highly uncertain. The complex and variable composition of atmospheric particles is a main reason for this uncertainty. About half of the particle mass is organic material, which is very poorly characterized on a molecular level, and therefore it is challenging to identify sources and atmospheric transformation processes. We present here a new combination of techniques for highly time-resolved aerosol sampling using a rotating drum impactor (RDI) and organic chemical analysis using direct liquid extraction surface analysis (LESA) combined with ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry. This minimizes sample preparation time and potential artifacts during sample workup compared to conventional off-line filter or impactor sampling. Due to the high time resolution of about 2.5 h intensity correlations of compounds detected in the high-resolution mass spectra were used to identify groups of compounds with likely common sources or atmospheric history.