The fractionation factors of stable carbon and hydrogen isotope ratios for VOCs

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Hiroto Kawashima, Akita prefecture university, Yurihonjo city, Japan
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are important precursors of ozone and secondary organic aerosols in the atmosphere, some of which are carcinogenic, teratogenic, or mutagenic. VOCs in ambient air originate from many sources, including vehicle exhausts, gasoline evaporation, solvent use, natural gas emissions, and industrial processes, and undergo intricate chemical reactions in the atmosphere. To develop efficient air pollution remediation strategies, it is important to clearly identify the emission sources and elucidate the reaction mechanisms in the atmosphere.

Recently, stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) of VOCs in some sources and ambient air have been measured by gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS). In this study, we measured δ13C and stable hydrogen isotope ratios (δD) of atmospheric VOCs by using the gas chromatography/thermal conversion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry coupled with a thermal desorption instrument (TD-GC/TC/IRMS).

The wider δD differences between sources were found in comparison with the δ13C studies. Therefore, determining δD values of VOCs in ambient air is potentially useful in identifying VOC sources and their reactive behavior in the atmosphere. However, to elucidate the sources and behavior of atmospheric VOCs more accurately, isotopic fractionation during atmospheric reaction must be considered.

In this study, we determined isotopic fractionation of the δ13C and δD values for the atmospheric some VOCs under irradiation conditions. As the results, δ13C for target all VOCs and δD for most VOCs were increasing after irradiation. But, the δD values for both benzene and toluene tended to decrease as irradiation time increased. We also estimated the fractionation factors for benzene and toluene, 1.27 and 1.05, respectively, which differed from values determined in previous studies. In summary, we were able to identify an inverse isotope effect for the δD values of benzene and toluene under ultraviolet irradiation, which might provide a new approach for studying photochemical reactions of volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere.