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Automated High Resolution Measurement of VOCs


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted from a wide variety of biogenic and anthropogenic sources. Photochemical oxidation of VOCs creates ozone, a criteria pollutant. In addition, lower volatility oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs) produced from photochemistry can condense into fine particulate matter (PM). Both ozone and fine PM harm human health and can influence the Earth’s radiative balance. Reducing ozone and PM requires a detailed understanding of the emission and removal of VOCs at sufficient time and spatial resolution. Measurements of individual VOC and OVOC molecules are needed to confirm and validate model descriptions of ozone production and VOC fates and to validate satellite measurements. Progress in this area is limited by the lack of field-deployable and rugged monitoring instrumentation providing detailed molecular information. Atmospheric VOCs have traditionally been measured by collecting off-line samples in canisters or on adsorbent cartridges, followed by laboratory analysis with gas chromatographic (GC)-mass spectrometry (MS), GC-flame ionization detection (FID), or GC-photoionization detection (PID). However, these methods produce low time resolution (hours to days) and poor spatial coverage, as well as being subject to artefacts due to sample storage and handling. NOAA needs automated, high spatial and temporal resolution VOC measurements with low latency in order to improve characterization and forecasting of ozone and PM to improve public health. Automated in-situ or remote-sensing instrumentation that is compact, low-cost, and field-deployable on the ground or in aircraft would address the critical need for speciated and quantitative trace gas and VOC measurements. We anticipate that this instrument will yield significant direct commercial sales in the atmospheric science and environmental pollution monitoring and forecasting communities. Other applications could include biomedical research, pharmaceutical development, drug analysis, food and flavor industrial analysis, homeland security, and forensics.
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