Source Identification and Seasonal Variations of Carbonaceous Aerosols in Beijing—A Stable Isotope Approach

  • Nina J. Schleicher
  • Yang Yu
  • Kuang Cen
  • Fahe Chai
  • Yizhen Chen
  • Shulan Wang
  • Stefan Norra
Conference paper


Carbonaceous aerosols constitute an important part of atmospheric particles in urban areas. Within this study, total carbon (TC) was investigated in total suspended particulates (TSP) and fine particles (PM2.5) collected in the megacity Beijing, China. Beside mass and TC concentrations, also stable C isotopes were analyzed by isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IR-MS) coupled to an element analyzer (EA). Carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) can serve as a fingerprint for source identification, because different source materials have characteristic δ13C values.

The δ13C values in 2008 varied from − 28.2 to − 25.0‰ for PM2.5 and from − 25.5 to − 22.3‰ for TSP samples. In order to gain more information about potential source material, the δ13C values of different source samples from Beijing were analyzed, such as sand from desert regions, construction material, topsoil, or coal. The isotopic C ratio was lowest in summer and highest in spring and winter. The lower δ13C values during summer are caused by a higher share of natural organic C collected, whereas higher δ13C values during the other seasons correlate with higher TC concentrations from anthropogenic and geogenic sources.


Total Suspended Particle Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry Carbon Isotope Ratio Source Apportionment Gobi Desert 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under grant STU 169/32-1,2. Laboratory analyses were carried out at the Institute of Mineralogy and Geochemistry (IMG), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. The authors express their special gratitude to the technical staff at IMG for their support. The authors also thank all colleagues in China at CRAES and CUG for collecting the filter samples.


  1. 1.
    Ancelet T, Davy PK, Trompetter WJ, Markwitz A, Weatherburn DC (2011) Carbonaceous aerosols in an urban tunnel. Atmos Environ 45:4463–4469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bird MI, Ascough PL (2012) Isotopes in pyrogenic carbon: a review. Org Geochem 42:1529–1539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cao J-J, Chow JC, Tao J, Lee S-C, Watson JG, Ho K-F, Wang G-H, Zhu C-S, Han Y-M (2011) Stable carbon isotopes in aerosols from Chinese cities: influence of fossil fuels. Atmos Environ 45:1359–1363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chen B, Kitagawa H, Jie D, Hu K, Lim J (2008) Dust transport from northeastern China inferred from carbon isotopes of atmospheric dust carbonate. Atmos Environ 42:4790–4796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    He K, Yang F, Ma Y, Zhang Q, Yao X, Chan CK, Cadle S, Chan T, Mulawa P (2001) The characteristics of PM2.5 in Beijing, China. Atmos Environ 35:4959–4970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jacobson M (2001) Strong radiative heating due to the mixing state of black carbon in atmospheric aerosols. Nature 409:695–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kappos A, Bruckmann P, Eikmann T, Englert N, Heinrich U, Höppe P, Koch E, Krause G, Kreyling W, Rauchfuss K, Rombout P, Schulz-Klemp V, Thiel W, Wichmann H-E (2004) Health effects of particles in ambient air. Int J Hyg Envir Health 207:399–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Li X, Brown D, Smith S, MacNee W, Donaldson K (1999) Short-term inflammatory responses following intratracheal instillation of fine and ultrafine carbon black in rats. Inhal Toxicol 11:709–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Menon S, Hansen J, Nazarenko L, Luo Y (2002) Climate effects of black carbon aerosols in China and India. Science 297:2250–2253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Nishikawa M, Matsui I, Batdorj D, Jugder D, Mori I, Shimizu A, Sugimoto N, Takahashi K (2011) Chemical composition of urban airborne particulate matter in Ulaanbaatar. Atmos Environ 45:5710–5715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Norra S, Schleicher N, Stüben D, Chai F, Chen Y, Wang S (2010) Assessment of aerosol concentration sampled at five sites in Beijing from 2005 till 2007. In: Rauch S et al (eds) Highway and urban environment, alliance for global sustainability bookseries 17. Springer, pp 133–140Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Okuda T, Kumata H, Naraoka H, Takada H (2002) Origin of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Chinese cities solved by compound-specific stable carbon isotopic analyses. Org Geochem 33:1737–1745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pichlmayer F, Schöner W, Seibert P, Stichler W, Wagenbach D (1998) Stable isotope analysis for characterization of pollutants at high elevation Alpine sites. Atmos Environ 23:4075–4085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Pope CA, Dockery DW (2006) Health effects of fine particulate air pollution: lines that connect. J Air Waste Manage 56:709–742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Schleicher N, Norra S, Chai F, Chen Y, Wang S, Stüben D (2010) Anthropogenic versus geogenic contribution to total suspended atmospheric particulate matter and its variations during a two-year sampling period in Beijing, China. J Environ Monitor 12:434–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Schleicher N, Norra S, Chai F, Chen Y, Wang S, Cen K, Yu Y, Stüben D (2011) Temporal variability of trace metal mobility of urban particulate matter from Beijing—A contribution to health impact asseessment of aerosols. Atmos Environ 45:7248–7265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Schleicher N, Norra S, Dietze V, Yu Y, Fricker M, Kaminski U, Chen Y, Cen K (2011) The effect of mitigation measures on size distributed mass concentrations of atmospheric particles and black carbon concentrations during the Olympic Summer Games 2008 in Beijing. Sci Total Environ 412–413, 185–193Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Schleicher N, Norra S, Chen Y, Chai F, Wang S (2012) Efficiency of mitigation measures to reduce particulate air pollution—a case study during the Olympic Summer Games 2008 in Beijing, China. Sci. Total Environ 427–428, 146–158Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Schwartz J, Dockery D, Neas L (1996) Is daily mortality associated specifically with fine particles? J Air Waste Manage 46:927–939CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Sun Y, Zhuang G, Wang Y, Han L, Guo J, Dan M, Zhang W, Wang Z, Hao Z (2004) The airborne particulate pollution in Beijing—concentration, composition, distribution and sources. Atmos Environ 38:5991–6004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Yu Y, Schleicher N, Norra S, Fricker M, Dietze V, Kaminski U, Cen K, Stüben D (2011) Dynamics and origin of PM2.5 during a three-year sampling period in Beijing, China. J Environ Monitor 13:334–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nina J. Schleicher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yang Yu
    • 3
  • Kuang Cen
    • 3
  • Fahe Chai
    • 4
  • Yizhen Chen
    • 4
  • Shulan Wang
    • 4
  • Stefan Norra
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Mineralogy and GeochemistryKarlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Geography and GeoecologyKarlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany
  3. 3.Chinese Research Academy of Environmental SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Chinese University of GeosciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations