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Fossil and Non-Fossil Sources of Different Carbonaceous Fractions in Fine and Coarse Particles by Radiocarbon Measurement

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

Y L Zhang
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Villigen, Switzerland Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
P Zotter
Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Villigen, Switzerland
N Perron
Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Villigen, Switzerland Now at: Division of Nuclear Physics, Lund University, 22100 Lund, Sweden
A S H Prévôt
Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Villigen, Switzerland
L Wacker
Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH Hönggerberg, Zürich, Switzerland
S Szidat*
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
6Corresponding author. Email:


Radiocarbon offers a unique possibility for unambiguous source apportionment of carbonaceous particles due to a direct distinction of non-fossil and fossil carbon. In this work, particulate matter of different size fractions was collected at 4 sites in Switzerland to examine whether fine and coarse carbonaceous particles exhibit different fossil and contemporary sources. Elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC) as well as water-soluble OC (WSOC) and water-insoluble OC (WINSOC) were separated and determined for subsequent 14C measurement. In general, both fossil and non-fossil fractions in OC and EC were found more abundant in the fine than in the coarse mode. However, a substantial fraction (∼20 ± 5%) of fossil EC was found in coarse particles, which could be attributed to traffic-induced non-exhaust emissions. The contribution of biomass burning to coarse-mode EC in winter was relatively high, which is likely associated to the coating of EC with organic and/or inorganic substances emitted from intensive wood burning. Further, fossil OC (i.e. from vehicle emissions) was found to be smaller than non-fossil OC due to the presence of primary biogenic OC and/or growing in size of wood-burning OC particles during aging processes. 14C content in WSOC indicated that the second organic carbon rather stems from non-fossil precursors for all samples. Interestingly, both fossil and non-fossil WINSOC concentrations were found to be higher in fine particles than in coarse particles in winter, which is likely due to primary wood burning emissions and/or secondary formation of WINSOC.

Atmospheric Carbon Cycle
Copyright © 2013 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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