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ECN publication
14C analysis of filter samples for source apportionment of carbon in PM in the Netherlands
Brink, H.M. ten; Weijers, E.P.; Röckmann, T.; Dusek, U.
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Biomass, Coal and Environmental Research 4-3-2010
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-E--10-005 ECN publication
Number of pages: Full text:
14 Download PDF  

We tested the feasibility of 14C analysis of carbon in PM in the Netherlands. This allows a first assessment of the sources of the carbon: PM-carbon that derives from modern sources has a 14C content similar to that of atmospheric carbon dioxide, while carbon that comes from (incomplete combustion) of fossil fuel does not contain 14C.
Twenty filter samples were analysed for 14C in the so-called Organic Carbon fraction only. The reason is that it is already known that the other carbon-fraction, Elemental Carbon, derives from fossil fuel.
There is a long preparation procedure for the samples and this gave rise to a loss of five of the samples. Nonetheless sufficient data remained for a first evaluation.
A first look at the results indicates that, on average, 70% of the Organic Carbon is modern, that means from living material like plants and trees, including wood combustion. The remainder of the OC comes from fossil fuel sources.
The samples coming from a rural site contained on average 75% modern carbon; these samples were collected in summer with presumably the highest biogenic activity. The samples coming from an urban site had an average percentage modern carbon of 64%; these were collected in the winter-spring season.
This was a preliminary exercise in which some of the samples were rather dated; furthermore, it is known that the filters not only collect OC but also volatile organic compounds. This artifact was not quantified. It is, hence, highly recommended to perform a more comprehensive study with respect to selection of sites and season; also the sampling artifact should then be addressed.

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