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Molecular Characterization of Organosulfates in Organic Aerosols from Shanghai and Los Angeles Urban Areas by Nanospray-Desorption Electrospray Ionization High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry


Fine aerosol particles in the urban areas of Shanghai and Los Angeles were collected on days that were characterized by their stagnant air and high organic aerosol concentrations. They were analyzed by nanospray-desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry with high mass resolution (m/Δm = 100,000). Solvent mixtures of acetonitrile and water and acetonitrile and toluene were used to extract and ionize polar and nonpolar compounds, respectively. A diverse mixture of oxygenated hydrocarbons, organosulfates, organonitrates, and organics with reduced nitrogen were detected in the Los Angeles sample. A majority of the organics in the Shanghai sample were detected as organosulfates. The dominant organosulfates that were detected at two locations have distinctly different molecular characteristics. Specifically, the organosulfates in the Los Angeles sample were dominated by biogenic products, while the organosulfates of a yet unknown origin found in the Shanghai sample had distinctive characteristics of long aliphatic carbon chains and low degrees of oxidation and unsaturation. The use of the acetonitrile and toluene solvent facilitated the observation of this type of organosulfates, which suggests that they could have been missed in previous studies that relied on sample extraction using common polar solvents. The high molecular weight and low degree of unsaturation and oxidization of the uncommon organosulfates suggest that they may act as surfactants and plausibly affect the surface tension and hygroscopicity of atmospheric particles. We propose that direct esterification of carbonyl or hydroxyl compounds by sulfates or sulfuric acid in the liquid phase could be the formation pathway of these special organosulfates. Long-chain alkanes from vehicle emissions might be their precursors.

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