Protonated acetone ion chemical ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry for real-time measurement of atmospheric ammonia

Keyong Hou , Fengshuo Dong , Hang Li , Bing Liu , Ruidong Liu , Maofa Ge , Yujing Mu , Jianmin Chen , Min Shao , Zifa Wang


Received May 26, 2021,Revised , Accepted July 19, 2021, Available online January 14, 2022

Volume 34,2022,Pages 66-74

Ammonia (NH3) is ubiquitous in the atmosphere, it can affect the formation of secondary aerosols and particulate matter, and cause soil eutrophication through sedimentation. Currently, the use of radioactive primary reagent ion source and the humidity interference on the sensitivity and stability are the two major issues faced by chemical ionization mass spectrometer (CIMS) in the analysis of atmospheric ammonia. In this work, a vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) Kr lamp was used to replace the radioactive source, and acetone was ionized under atmospheric pressure to obtain protonated acetone reagent ions to ionize ammonia. The ionization source is designed as a separated three-zone structure, and even 90 vol.% high-humidity samples can still be directly analyzed with a sensitivity of sub-ppbv. A signal normalization processing method was designed, and with this new method, the quantitative relative standard deviation (RSD) of the instrument was decreased from 17.5% to 9.1%, and the coefficient of determination was increased from 0.8340 to 0.9856. The humidity correction parameters of the instrument were calculated from different humidity, and the ammonia concentrations obtained under different humidity were converted to its concentration under zero humidity condition with these correction parameters. The analytical time for a single sample is only 60 sec, and the limit of detection (LOD) was 8.59 pptv (signal-to-noise ratio S/N = 3). The ambient measurement made in Qingdao, China, in January 2021 with this newly designed CIMS, showed that the concentration of ammonia ranged from 1 to 130 ppbv.

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