Tropospheric fine particulate matter (PM) poses serious health risks and has a significant impact on global climate change. The measurement of various aspects of PM is challenging due to its complex chemical nature. This dissertation addresses various aspects of PM, including composition, measurement, and visibility. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new secondary standard based on visibility in urban areas using 24-h averaged measurements of either light scatter or PM concentration. However shorter averaging times may better represent human perception of visibility. Data from two studies conducted in Lindon, UT, 2012, and Rubidoux, CA, 2003, were used to compare different techniques to estimate visibility, particularly the effect of relative humidity on visibility estimations. Particle composition was measured in Salt Lake City during January-February of 2009. One-hour averaged concentrations of several gas phase and particle phase inorganic species were measured. The results indicate ammonium nitrate averages 40% of the total PM2.5 mass in the absence of inversions and up to 69% during strong inversions. Also, the formation of ammonium nitrate is nitric acid limited, while the formation of ozone appears to be oxidant and volatile organic carbon (VOC) limited. Reduction of NOx will reduce ammonium nitrate secondary particle formation, however, a decrease in NOx may increase ozone concentration.Due to the complexity of PM it is poorly characterized. A large fraction of PM is composed of organic compounds, but these compounds are not regularly monitored due to limitations in current sampling techniques. The GC-MS Organic Aerosol Monitor (OAM) combines a collection device with thermal desorption, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to quantitatively measure the carbonaceous components of PM on an hourly averaged basis. A compact GC and simple pre-concentrator were developed for the system to decouple separation from manual injection and enhance separation of environmentally-relevant polar organic compounds, such as levoglucosan. The GC-MS OAM is fully automated and has been successfully deployed in the field. It uses a chemically deactivated filter for collection followed by thermal desorption and GC-MS analysis. Laboratory tests show that detection limits range from 0.2 to 3 ng for many atmospherically relevant compounds. The GC-MS OAM was deployed in the field for semi-continuous measurement of the organic markers, levoglucosan, dehydroabietic acid, and several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during winter (January to March), 2015 and 2016. Results illustrate the significance of this monitoring technique to more fully characterize the organic components of PM and identify sources of pollution.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





air pollution, fine particulate matter, PM2.5, secondary organic aerosol, organic markers, levoglucosan, PMF



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Chemistry Commons