Fossil and Non-Fossil Sources of Different Carbonaceous Fractions in Fine and Coarse Particles by Radiocarbon Measurement

Zhang, Yanlin; Zotter, P.; Perron, N.; Prévôt, A.S.H.; Wacker, L.; Szidat, Sönke (2013). Fossil and Non-Fossil Sources of Different Carbonaceous Fractions in Fine and Coarse Particles by Radiocarbon Measurement. Radiocarbon, 55(203), pp. 1510-1520. Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16278

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Radiocarbon offers a unique possibility for unambiguous source apportionment of carbonaceous particles due to a direct distinction of non-fossil and fossil carbon. In this work, particulate matter of different size fractions was collected at 4 sites in Switzerland to examine whether fine and coarse carbonaceous particles exhibit different fossil and contemporary sources. Elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC) as well as water-soluble OC (WSOC) and water-insoluble OC (WINSOC) were separated and determined for subsequent 14C measurement. In general, both fossil and non-fossil fractions in OC and EC were found more abundant in the fine than in the coarse mode. However, a substantial fraction (~20 ± 5%) of fossil EC was found in coarse particles, which could be attributed to traffic-induced non-exhaust emissions. The contribution of biomass burning to coarse-mode EC in winter was relatively high, which is likely associated to the coating of EC with organic and/or inorganic substances emitted from intensive wood burning. Further, fossil OC (i.e. from vehicle emissions) was found to be smaller than non-fossil OC due to the presence of primary biogenic OC and/or growing in size of wood-burning OC particles during aging processes. 14C content in WSOC indicated that the second organic carbon rather stems from non-fossil precursors for all samples. Interestingly, both fossil and non-fossil WINSOC concentrations were found to be higher in fine particles than in coarse particles in winter, which is likely due to primary wood burning emissions and/or secondary formation of WINSOC.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Zhang, Yanlin, Szidat, Sönke


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry




Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona




Brigitte Oggier

Date Deposited:

28 Jul 2014 14:31

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:32

Publisher DOI:





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