|Gonser, S; Held, A: A chemical analyzer for charged ultrafine particles, Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, 6, 2339–2348 (2013), doi:10.5194/amt-6-2339-2013|
New particle formation is a frequent phenomenon in the atmosphere and of major significance for the Earth’s climate and human health. To date the mechanisms leading to the nucleation of particles as well as to aerosol growth are not completely understood. A lack of appropriate measurement equipment for online analysis of the chemical composition of freshly nucleated particles is one major limitation. We have developed a Chemical Analyzer for Charged Ultrafine Particles (CAChUP) capable of analyzing particles with diameters below 30 nm. A bulk of size-separated particles is collected electrostatically on a metal filament, resistively desorbed and subsequently analyzed for its molecular composition in a time of flight mass spectrometer. We report on technical details as well as characterization experiments performed with the CAChUP. Our instrument was tested in the laboratory for its detection performance as well as for its collection and desorption capabilities. The manual application of defined masses of camphene (C10H16) to the desorption filament resulted in a detection limit between 0.5 and 5 ng, and showed a linear response of the mass spectrometer. Flow tube experiments of 25 nm diameter secondary organic aerosol from ozonolysis of alpha-pinene also showed a linear relation between collection time and the mass spectrometer’s signal intensity. The resulting mass spectra from the collection experiments are in good agreement with published work on particles generated by the ozonolysis of alpha-pinene. A sensitivity study shows that the current setup of CAChUP is ready for laboratory measurements and for the observation of new particle formation events in the field.