Source apportionment of carbonaceous aerosols in Beijing with radiocarbon and organic tracers: insight into the differences between urban and rural sites

Siqi Hou, Di Liu, Jingsha Xu, Tuan V. Vu, Xuefang Wu, Deepchandra Srivastava, Pingqing Fu, Linjie Li, Yele Sun, Athanasia Vlachou, Vaios Moschos, Gary Salazar, Sönke Szidat, André S. H. Prévôt, Roy M. Harrison, Zongbo Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Downloads (Pure)


Carbonaceous aerosol is a dominant component of fine particles in Beijing. However, it is challenging to apportion its sources. Here, we applied a newly developed method which combined radiocarbon (14C) with organic tracers to apportion the sources of fine carbonaceous particles at an urban (IAP) and a rural (PG) site of Beijing. PM2.5 filter samples (24 h) were collected at both sites from 10 November to 11 December 2016 and from 22 May to 24 June 2017. 14C was determined in 25 aerosol samples (13 at IAP and 12 at PG) representing low pollution to haze conditions. Biomass burning tracers (levoglucosan, mannosan, and galactosan) in the samples were also determined using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Higher contributions of fossil-derived OC (OCf) were found at the urban site. The OCf / OC ratio decreased in the summer samples (IAP: 67.8 ± 4.0 % in winter and 54.2 ± 11.7 % in summer; PG: 59.3 ± 5.7 % in winter and 50.0 ± 9.0 % in summer) due to less consumption of coal in the warm season. A novel extended Gelencsér (EG) method incorporating the 14C and organic tracer data was developed to estimate the fossil and non-fossil sources of primary and secondary OC (POC and SOC). It showed that fossil-derived POC was the largest contributor to OC (35.8 ± 10.5 % and 34.1 ± 8.7 % in wintertime for IAP and PG, 28.9 ± 7.4 % and 29.1 ± 9.4 % in summer), regardless of season. SOC contributed 50.0 ± 12.3 % and 47.2 ± 15.5 % at IAP and 42.0 ± 11.7 % and 43.0 ± 13.4 % at PG in the winter and summer sampling periods, respectively, within which the fossil-derived SOC was predominant and contributed more in winter. The non-fossil fractions of SOC increased in summer due to a larger biogenic component. Concentrations of biomass burning OC (OCbb) are resolved by the extended Gelencsér method, with average contributions (to total OC) of 10.6 ± 1.7 % and 10.4 ± 1.5 % in winter at IAP and PG and 6.5 ± 5.2 % and 17.9 ± 3.5 % in summer, respectively. Correlations of water-insoluble OC (WINSOC) and water-soluble OC (WSOC) with POC and SOC showed that although WINSOC was the major contributor to POC, a non-negligible fraction of WINSOC was found in SOC for both fossil and non-fossil sources, especially during winter. In summer, a greater proportion of WSOC from non-fossil sources was found in SOC. Comparisons of the source apportionment results with those obtained from a chemical mass balance model were generally good, except for the cooking aerosol.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8273-8292
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC; grant nos. NE/N007190/1 and NE/R005281/1) and the Royal Society Advanced Fellowship (grant no. NAF/R1/191220).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Source apportionment of carbonaceous aerosols in Beijing with radiocarbon and organic tracers: insight into the differences between urban and rural sites'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this