Peilin Chen1, Xinye Zhao1, Ou Wang1, Min Shao2, Xinxin Xiao1, Shanshan Wang1, Qin’geng Wang This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,3

1 State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resources Reuse, School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
2 School of Environment, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210046, China
3 Collaborative Innovation Center of Atmospheric Environment and Equipment Technology, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China

Received: September 10, 2021
Revised: December 19, 2021
Accepted: December 20, 2021

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Chen, P., Zhao, X., Wang, O., Shao, M., Xiao, X., Wang, S., Wang, Q. (2022). Characteristics of VOCs and their Potentials for O3 and SOA Formation in a Medium-sized City in Eastern China. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 22, 210239.


  • Ambient concentrations of VOCs are mainly affected by local emissions.
  • VOC composition and sources differ remarkably between big and medium-sized cities.
  • Biogenic VOC emission may heavily affect O3 formation in summer.
  • Aromatics are the key precursor of O3 and SOA and need a priority attention.


To understand the characteristics and environmental effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a typical medium-sized city in China, manual measurements including 56 species of the nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) were taken at three urban and suburban sites in Huai’an from April to September 2019, and automatic measurements including 106 species of VOCs were taken at the urban center in May and August 2019. Spatial and temporal characteristics of the VOC concentrations were analyzed. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) model was applied to apportion VOC sources. Ozone (O3) formation potentials (OFPs) and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation potentials (SOAFPs) were calculated. The results show that the mean VOC concentration was much lower in the urban center than in the suburbs. Generally, proportions of both alkenes and aromatic hydrocarbons were higher and proportion of alkanes was lower in Huai’an than that in big cities, indicating emissions from solvent usage and industrial process play a more important role in the medium-sized city. The results of source apportionment show that solvent usage and industrial process together contributed 53%, and vehicle emission contributed 27% to the ambient VOCs. The dependence of VOC concentrations on temperature indicates that a considerable part of VOCs may come from fugitive emissions. The two-peak pattern of diurnal variation suggests near-surface emissions contributed a lot to the VOCs. Aromatic hydrocarbons were identified as the key component to the formation of O3 and SOA. Furthermore, biogenic emission could contribute greatly (> 20%) to the ambient VOCs during daytime in summer, which may have significant effects on O3 formation. Aromatic hydrocarbons were identified as the key component to the formation of O3 and SOA, which should be given more attention in developing air pollution control strategies.

Keywords: Volatile organic compounds, Ozone pollution, Source apportionment, OFP, SOAFP

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