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Variability and Sources of Ambient Volatile Organic Compounds Based on Online Measurements in a Suburban Region of Nanjing, Eastern China

Category: Urban Air Quality

Volume: 20 | Issue: 3 | Pages: 606-619
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2019.10.0517
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To cite this article:
Wu, R., Zhao, Y., Zhang, J. and Zhang, L. (2020). Variability and Sources of Ambient Volatile Organic Compounds Based on Online Measurements in a Suburban Region of Nanjing, Eastern China. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20: 606-619. doi: 10.4209/aaqr.2019.10.0517.

Rongrong Wu1, Yu Zhao 1,2, Jie Zhang2,3, Lei Zhang1

  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control & Resource Reuse and School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210023, China
  • 2 Collaborative Innovation Center of Atmospheric Environment and Equipment Technology (CICAEET), Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Jiangsu 210044, China
  • 3 Jiangsu Provincial Academy of Environmental Science, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210036, China


  • Hourly observation was conducted for ambient VOCs at suburban Nanjing.
  • Industrial and traffic emissions contributed to 84% of ambient VOCs at Nanjing.
  • Contributions of industrial sources and aged air masses increased on pollution days.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the key precursors of ozone (O3) and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. To identify the variation in VOCs emission sources, simultaneous VOCs measurements were conducted for one year at a suburban site (Xianlin Campus of Nanjing University (NJU)) in Nanjing, a highly polluted city of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region in China. The annual average concentration of VOCs at NJU was observed to be 18.95 ± 14.95 ppbv, with alkanes, alkenes and aromatics contributing 67.5%, 13.6% and 18.9%, respectively, of the total mass concentration. The ratios for i-pentane/n-pentane and m,p-xylene/ethylbenzene showed that the ambient VOCs at NJU were affected by fuel evaporation and long-distance transport. A positive matrix factorization (PMF) model was applied for source apportionment of the VOCs, and seven factors were identified. Vehicle exhaust, evaporation, natural gas (NG) and aged air masses, combustion and synthetic industries, solvents and painting, petrochemical plants and mixed industrial sources were estimated to contribute 23.5%, 16.3%, 15.9%, 14.6%, 13.2%, 10.8% and 5.6%, respectively. The contribution from traffic emissions (i.e., vehicle exhaust) exceeded that suggested by a local emission inventory (9.7%). The concentration-weighted trajectory (CWT) model revealed that the highly polluted air masses arriving at NJU originated in the industrial areas of northeastern Nanjing and the YRD. The contributions from petrochemical plants, solvents and painting, and aged air masses were found to be increased during O3 and PM2.5 pollution days in suburban areas, indicating the importance of reducing industrial emissions and jointly controlling VOCs on a regional scale.


VOCs Source apportionment Positive matrix factorization Pollution episodes

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Accepted Manuscripts
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2019.10.0496