Tracer-based source apportionment of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in PM2.5in Guangzhou, southern China, using positive matrix factorization (PMF)

Bo Gao, Hai Guo, Xin Ming Wang, Xiu Ying Zhao, Zhen Hao Ling, Zhou Zhang, Teng Yu Liu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


From 28 November to 23 December 2009, 24-h PM2. 5samples were collected simultaneously at six sites in Guangzhou. Concentrations of 18 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) together with certain molecular tracers for vehicular emissions (i. e., hopanes and elemental carbon), coal combustion (i. e., picene), and biomass burning (i. e., levoglucosan) were determined. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) receptor model combined with tracer data was applied to explore the source contributions to PAHs. Three sources were identified by both inspecting the dominant tracer(s) in each factor and comparing source profiles derived from PMF with determined profiles in Guangzhou or in the Pearl River Delta region. The three sources identified were vehicular emissions (VE), biomass burning (BB), and coal combustion (CC), accounting for 11 ± 2 %, 31 ± 4 %, and 58 ± 4 % of the total PAHs, respectively. CC replaced VE to become the most important source of PAHs in Guangzhou, reflecting the effective control of VE in recent years. The three sources had different contributions to PAHs with different ring sizes, with higher BB contributions (75 ± 3 %) to four-ring PAHs such as pyrene and higher CC contributions (57 ± 4 %) to six-ring PAHs such as benzo[ghi]perylene. Temporal variations of VE and CC contributions were probably caused by the change of weather conditions, while temporal variations of BB contributions were additionally influenced by the fluctuation of BB emissions. Source contributions also showed some spatial variations, probably due to the source emission variations near the sampling sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2398-2409
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Biomass burning
  • Coal combustion
  • Guangzhou
  • PAHs
  • Positive matrix factorization (PMF)
  • Source apportionment
  • Vehicular emission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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