Characteristics and Sources of Hourly Trace Elements in Airborne Fine Particles in Urban Beijing, China

Yang Cui, Dongsheng Ji, Hui Chen, Meng Gao, Willy Maenhaut, Jun He, Yuesi Wang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


To better investigate the characteristics and sources of trace elements (TEs) in PM2.5 in urban Beijing, a 1-year hourly observation was continuously made using an online multi-element analyzer from 1 June 2016 to 31 May 2017. The average concentrations of 14 individual TEs ranged from 1.1 (V) to 900 ng/m3 (K). The occurrence levels of most TEs of interest in Beijing were lower than those in most domestic cities, but higher than those in most foreign countries. The formation of sulfate increased with the concentrations of all studied TEs during autumn and winter. Dust, industry, biomass burning and waste incineration, vehicle emissions, coal combustion, and oil combustion were identified by the positive matrix factorization (PMF) model, which accounted for 36.3%, 10.7%, 27.1%, 13.7%, 7.6%, and 4.6%, respectively, of the total elements. All factors exhibited higher concentrations on weekends than on weekdays. Local vehicular emissions and industry contributed to the loading of TEs, but dust, biomass burning and waste incineration, coal combustion, and oil combustion from neighboring areas appeared to be dominant sources of TEs. Except for dust and industry, the four other sources of TEs were mainly located in the south and southeast areas of the sampling site. The analysis by conditional probability function and potential source contribution function showed that the distribution of the PMF sources of TEs roughly agreed with the location of the main point sources. Overall, this work provides more detailed information on the characteristics of the TEs for the scientific community and modelling work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11595-11613
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2019


  • source apportionment
  • sulfate
  • trace element
  • urban Beijing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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