Significant coal combustion contribution to water-soluble brown carbon during winter in Xingtai, China: Optical properties and sources


Gehui Wang , Dapeng Li , Can Wu , Si Zhang , Yali Lei , Shaojun Lv , Wei Du , Shijie Liu , Fan Zhang , Xiaodi Liu , Lang Liu , Jingjing Meng , Yuesi Wang , Jian Gao

DOI:10.1016/j.jes.2022.02.026

Received November 13, 2021,Revised , Accepted February 15, 2022, Available online February 26, 2022

Volume 35,2023,Pages 892-900

To understand the characteristics of atmospheric brown carbon (BrC), daily PM2.5 samples in Xingtai, a small city in North China Plain (NCP), during the four seasons of 2018-2019, were collected and analyzed for optical properties and chemical compositions. The light absorption at 365 nm (absλ=365 nm) displayed a strong seasonal variation with the highest value in winter (29.0±14.3 M/m), which was 3.2∼5.4-fold of that in other seasons. A strong correlation of absλ=365 nm with benzo(b)fluoranthene (BbF) was only observed in winter, indicating that coal combustion was the major source for BrC in the season due to the enhanced domestic heating. The mass absorbing efficiency of BrC also exhibited a similar seasonal pattern, and was found to correlate linearly with the aerosol pH, suggesting a positive effect of aerosol acidity on the optical properties and formation of BrC in the city. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) analysis further showed that on a yearly basis the major source for BrC was biomass burning, which accounted for 34% of the total BrC, followed by secondary formation (26.7%), coal combustion (21.3%) and fugitive dust (18%). However, the contribution from coal combustion was remarkably enhanced in winter, accounting for ∼40% of the total. Our work revealed that more efforts of “shifting coal to clean energy” are necessary in rural areas and small cities in NCP in order to further mitigate PM2.5 pollution in China.

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