Characteristics and source apportionment of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at a coastal site in Hong Kong

Yan Tan, Shuwen Han, Yi Chen, Zhuozhi Zhang, Haiwei Li, Wenqi Li, Qi Yuan, Xinwei Li, Tao Wang, Shun cheng Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from biomass burning, vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions play a vital role in the formation of ozone (O3) and secondary organic aerosols (SOA). Since VOCs are the precursors of O3 and aerosol pollution which have become the world's most emergent environmental problems, a field measurement study focused on VOCs was carried out from 27 August to 10 October 2018 in a rural coastal site in Hong Kong. During the campaign, 13 VOC species were detected continuously with proton-transfer-reaction quadrupole mass spectrometry, and their effects on photochemical air pollution were studied. Methanol was the most abundant species among the measured VOCs (average concentration, 3.73 ± 3.26 ppb), and higher concentrations of oxygenated VOCs were found than reported in previous studies of atmospheric chemistry in rural areas. Diurnal variations were observed in the concentrations of various VOC species, indicating that the VOC concentrations were influenced by photochemical reactions. The amount of O3 formation was estimated based on the maximum incremental reactivity scale of the VOCs. The top five contributors to O3 formation in Hong Kong (in order) were isoprene (13.46 μg/m3), methyl ethyl ketone (12.74 μg/m3), xylene (8.52 μg/m3), acetaldehyde (8.22 μg/m3), and acrolein (4.32 μg/m3). Receptor model positive matrix factorization (PMF) was used to identify the dominant emission sources and evaluate their corresponding contributions to VOCs. Five major VOC sources were identified with the PMF method, including (1) industry and vehicle-related sources (8.1%), (2) biogenic emissions (5.5%), (3) biomass burning (63.7%), (4) secondary formation (9.2%), and (5) ship-related emissions (13.5%). The source apportionment results from PMF analysis show that the sampling site at the southeastern tip of Hong Kong was strongly influenced by urban plumes from the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area/Pearl River Delta region and by oceanic emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146241
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2021


  • Ozone formation potential (OFP)
  • PMF model
  • PTR-MS
  • Source apportionment
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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