Size−resolved source apportionment of particulate matter from a megacity in northern China based on one-year measurement of inorganic and organic components

Yingze Tian*, Roy M. Harrison, Yinchang Feng, Zongbo Shi, Yongli Liang, Yixuan Li, Qianqian Xue, Jingsha Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

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This research apportioned size-resolved particulate matter (PM) contributions in a megacity in northern China based on a full year of measurements of both inorganic and organic markers. Ions, elements, carbon fractions, n-alkanes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), hopanes and steranes in 9 p.m. size fractions were analyzed. High molecular weight PAHs concentrated in fine PM, while most other organic compounds showed two peaks. Both two-way and three-way receptor models were used for source apportionment of PM in different size ranges. The three-way receptor model gave a clearer separation of factors than the two-way model, because it uses a combination of chemical composition and size distributions, so that factors with similar composition but distinct size distributions (like more mature and less mature coal combustion) can be resolved. The three-way model resolved six primary and three secondary factors. Gasoline vehicles and coal and biomass combustion, nitrate and high relative humidity related secondary aerosol, and resuspended dust and diesel vehicles (exhaust and non-exhaust) are the top two contributors to pseudo-ultrafine (<0.43 μm), fine (0.43–2.1 μm) and coarse mode (>2.1 μm) PM, respectively. Mass concentration of PM from coal and biomass combustion, industrial emissions, and diesel vehicle sources showed a bimodal size distribution, but gasoline vehicles and resuspended dust exhibited a peak in the fine and coarse mode, separately. Mass concentration of sulphate, nitrate and secondary organic aerosol exhibited a bimodal distribution and were correlated with temperature, indicating strong photochemical processing and repartitioning. High relative humidity related secondary aerosol was strongly associated with size shifts of PM, NO3 and SO42− from the usual 0.43–0.65 μm to 1.1–2.1 μm. Our results demonstrated the dominance of primary combustion sources in the <0.43 μm particle mass, in contrast to that of secondary aerosol in fine particle mass, and dust in coarse particle mass in the Northern China megacity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117932
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date7 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41977181 and 21707071), Young Elite Scientists Sponsorship Program by Tianjin, China (TJSQNTJ-2018-04), and China Scholarship Council (201906205033), RMH, ZS and JSX are supported by Natural Environment Research Council (NE/N007190/1).


  • Organic marker
  • Particulate matter
  • Size-resolved source apportionment
  • Three-way factor analysis model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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