Acetic acid is one of the most abundant organic acids in the ambient atmosphere, with maximum mixing ratios reaching into the tens of parts per billion by volume (ppbv) range. The identities and associated magnitudes of the major sources and sinks for acetic acid are poorly characterized, due in part to the limitation in available measurement techniques. This paper demonstrates that Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) can reliably quantify acetic acid vapor in ambient air. Three different PTR-MS configurations were calibrated at low ppbv mixing ratios using permeation tubes, which yielded calibration factors between 7.0 and 10.9 normalized counts per second per ppbv (ncps ppbv−1) at a drift tube field strength of 132 townsend (Td). Detection limits ranged from 0.06 to 0.32 ppbv with dwell times of 5 s. These calibration factors showed negligible humidity dependence. Using the experimentally determined calibration factors, PTR-MS measurements of acetic acid during the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation (ICARTT) campaign were validated against results obtained using Mist Chambers coupled with Ion Chromatography (MC/IC). An orthogonal least squares linear regression of paired data yielded a slope of 1.14 ± 0.06 (2σ), an intercept of 0.049 ± 20 (2σ) ppbv, and an R2 of 0.78. The median mixing ratio of acetic acid on Appledore Island, ME during the ICARTT campaign was 0.530 ± 0.025 ppbv with a minimum of 0.075 ± 0.004 ppbv, and a maximum of 3.555 ± 0.171 ppbv.
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Calibration and intercomparison of acetic acid measurements using proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS)