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Single particle characterization, source apportionment, and aging effects of ambient aerosols in Southern California


Composed of a mixture of chemical species and phases and existing in a variety of shapes and sizes, atmospheric aerosols are complex and can have serious influence on human health, the environment, and climate. In order to better understand the impact of aerosols on local to global scales, detailed measurements on the physical and chemical properties of ambient particles are essential. In addition, knowing the origin or the source of the aerosols is important for policymakers to implement targeted regulations and effective control strategies to reduce air pollution in their region. One of the most ground breaking techniques in aerosol instrumentation is single particle mass spectrometry (SPMS), which can provide online chemical composition and size information on the individual particle level. The primary focus of this work is to further improve the ability of one specific SPMS technique, aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ATOFMS), for the use of identifying the specific origin of ambient aerosols, which is known as source apportionment. The ATOFMS source apportionment method utilizes a library of distinct source mass spectral signatures to match the chemical information of the single ambient particles. The unique signatures are obtained in controlled source characterization studies, such as with the exhaust emissions of heavy duty diesel vehicles (HDDV) operating on a dynamometer. The apportionment of ambient aerosols is complicated by the chemical and physical processes an individual particle can undergo as it spends time in the atmosphere, which is referred to as "aging" of the aerosol. Therefore, the performance of the source signature library technique was investigated on the ambient dataset of the highly aged environment of Riverside, California. Additionally, two specific subsets of the Riverside dataset (ultrafine particles and particles containing trace metals), which are known to cause adverse health effects, were probed in greater detail. Finally, the impact of large wildfires on the ambient levels of particulate matter in Southern California is discussed. The results of this work provide insight into single particles impacting the Southern California region, the relative source contributions to this region, and finally an examination of how atmospheric aging influences the ability to perform source apportionment

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