Understanding Secondary Organic Aerosol Formation from Biomass Burning Through Time-Resolved Speciated Volatile and Semi-Volatile Organic Compound Measurements

EPA Grant Number: FP917784
Title: Understanding Secondary Organic Aerosol Formation from Biomass Burning Through Time-Resolved Speciated Volatile and Semi-Volatile Organic Compound Measurements
Investigators: Wernis, Rebecca A
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018
Project Amount: $132,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships

Objective:

Biomass burning is one of the main sources of organic aerosol and gas-phase organic compounds which form aerosol. Aerosol composition and physical properties have been shown to vary rapidly and substantially, but the mechanisms behind these processes are not well understood. This research aims to elucidate these processes through deployment of a comprehensive instrument for sampling organic compounds in the atmosphere at a wildfire-prone site in the western U.S.

Approach:

To measure concentrations of organic compounds in the atmosphere, the fellow will develop a new instrument with hourly time resolution and two distinct collection channels: one for volatile organic compounds and one for semi-volatile organic compounds in both the gas and aerosol phase. This will be the first time a single instrument is able to detect such a wide range in volatility of organic compounds. The fellow will deploy the instrument at a field site in western North America where wildfire influence is common. Analysis approaches for the resulting dataset will include (1) identification of known biomass burning tracers, (2) investigation through offline filter analysis techniques into the structure and formula of unidentified compounds present in the data, (3) source apportionment using positive matrix factorization to identify groups of species that co-vary in time, and (4) synthesis and comparison with other measurements and laboratory studies.

Expected Results:

The rich dataset produced from this instrument deployment will undoubtedly lead to a variety of discoveries. The structure and chemical formula of some previously undiscovered compounds associated with biomass burning will be described. Based on concentration timelines and correlations, precursors, reactive intermediates, and oxidized reaction products may be identified. Comparisons to physical characterization measurements of smoke plumes and laboratory studies will lead to greater understanding of the conditions that lead to aerosol formation and growth from wildfires.

Supplemental Keywords:

air quality, pollutant, wildfire, biomass burning, atmosphere, organic compound, instrumentation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Final