Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 73–103

Measurements of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) During POPCORN 1994: Applying a New On-Line GC–MS-Technique


  • Arno Wedel
    • Institut für Atmosphärische Chemie, Forschungszentrum
  • Klaus-Peter Müller
    • Institut für Atmosphärische Chemie, Forschungszentrum
  • Monika Ratte
    • Institut für Atmosphärische Chemie, Forschungszentrum
  • Jochen Rudolph
    • Institut für Atmosphärische Chemie, Forschungszentrum

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005988022873

Cite this article as:
Wedel, A., Müller, K., Ratte, M. et al. Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry (1998) 31: 73. doi:10.1023/A:1005988022873


Atmospheric concentrations of ca. 250 C6–C15 hydrocarb on and C4–C12 oxygenated volatile organic compounds (VOC) including alkanes, benzene and alkyl benzenes, monoterpenes and aldehydes were measured in August 1994 during the POPCORN campaign (POPCORN = Photo-Oxidant formation by Plant emitted Compounds and OH Radicals in North-Eastern Germany). About 80 substances together contributed 90% of the atmospheric carbon in this range of molecular weight. During this field campaign VOC-emissions from several crop and tree species and the ambient concentrations of CO, C2–C7 non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), C1 and C2 aldehydes, nitrogen oxides, ozone and hydroxyl-radicals (OH) were also measured. These data were used to interpret the VOC measurements presented here. The on-line GC–MS used for the VOC measurements combines adsorptive sampling with thermal desorption and GC–MS analysis in an automated system. Internal standards were used to quantify the measurements. Ozone was destroyed prior to the sample preconcentration through the gas phase reaction with NO. Aromatic compounds like benzene, toluene and xylenes were the most abundant compound class among the measured substances, α-pinene and Δ3-carene, most probably originating from pineforests ca. 1 km away from the measuring site, were the most abundant monoterpenes. The highest mixing ratios of most compounds were measured in nights with strong inversion situations. The toluene mixing ratios then reached 630 pptv; α-pinene mixing ratios went up to 430 pptv. The median of all toluene and α-pinene measurements during the campaign was 125 pptv or 22 pptv, respectively. These values are on the lower end of ambient measurements reported for continental sites. In most samples also n-pentanal, n-hexananl, n-nonanal and n-undecanal were present. Median mixing ratios were 9, 16, 14 and 8 pptv, respectively. Emission studies indicate that these highly reactive compounds are most probably emitted from maize. It is shown by a simple first order approach that the potential for ozone formation during the POPCORN campaign was roughly equal for anthropogenic and biogenic VOC. From measured concentrations of ozone, OH-radicals, methane, CO, C2–C15 nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHC) and C5–C11 aldehydes a photochemical production of ozone in the order of 3.5 ppb/h can be estimated. Apart from formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which are at least partly products of VOC oxidation, the substance group with the largest contribution to the VOC turnover are the monoterpenes. They contribute ca. 30%. However, the mechanism of terpene oxidation is very complex and presently only partly understood. Thus the actual contribution of monoterpenes to ozone formation is very uncertain. Other measured compound classes such as light alkenes, alkanes, aromatics, and C5–C11 aldehydes contribute each between 10% and 15% to ozone formation. The measuring site was not influenced directly from strong biogenic or anthropogenic sources, and the results obtained during the POPCORN campaign can be regarded as a typical picture of a remote rural central European environment.

volatile organic compoundsC5–C15 hydrocarbonsaldehydesozone formationgas-chromatographyGC–MS

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998