Measurement of Passive Uptake Rates for Volatile Organic Compounds on Commercial Thermal Desorption Tubes and the Effect of Ozone on Sampling

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Diffusive or passive sampling methods using commercially filled axial-sampling thermal desorption tubes are widely used for measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air. The passive sampling method provides a robust, cost effective way to measure air quality with time-averaged concentrations spanning up to a week or more. Sampling rates for VOCs can be calculated using tube geometry and Fick’s Law for ideal diffusion behavior or measured experimentally. There is evidence that uptake rates deviate from ideal and may not be constant over time. Therefore, experimentally measured sampling rates are preferred. In this project, a calibration chamber with a continuous stirred tank reactor design and constant VOC source was combined with active sampling to generate a controlled dynamic calibration environment for passive samplers. The chamber air was augmented with a continuous source of 45 VOCs ranging from pentane to diethyl phthalate representing a variety of chemical classes and physiochemical properties. Both passive and active samples were collected on commercially filled Tenax TA thermal desorption tubes over an 11-day period and used to calculate passive sampling rates. A second experiment was designed to determine the impact of ozone on passive sampling by using the calibration chamber to passively load five terpenes on a set of Tenax tubes and then exposing the tubes to different ozone environments with and without ozone scrubbers attached to the tube inlet. During the sampling rate experiment, the measured diffusive uptake was constant for up to seven days for most of the VOCs tested but deviated from linearity for some of the more volatile compounds between seven and eleven days. In the ozone experiment, both exposed and unexposed tubes showed a similar decline in terpene mass over time indicating back diffusion when uncapped tubes were transferred to a clean environment but there was no indication of significant loss by ozone reaction.

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