Insights into the Formation and Evolution of Individual Compounds in the Particulate Phase during Aromatic Photo-Oxidation

Kelly L. Pereira, Jacqueline F. Hamilton, Andrew R. Rickard, William J. Bloss, Mohammed S. Alam, Marie Camredon, Martyn W. Ward, Kevin P. Wyche, Amalia Muñoz, Teresa Vera, Mónica Vázquez, Esther Borrás, Milagros Ródenas

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Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is well-known to have adverse effects on air quality and human health. However, the dynamic mechanisms occurring during SOA formation and evolution are poorly understood. The time-resolved SOA composition formed during the photo-oxidation of three aromatic compounds, methyl chavicol, toluene and 4-methyl catechol, were investigated at the European Photoreactor. SOA was collected using a particle into liquid sampler and analyzed offline using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to produce temporal profiles of individual photo-oxidation products. In the photo-oxidation of methyl chavicol, 70 individual compounds were characterized and three distinctive temporal profile shapes were observed. The calculated mass fraction (Ci,aer/COA) of the individual SOA compounds showed either a linear trend (increasing/decreasing) or exponential decay with time. Substituted nitrophenols showed an exponential decay, with the nitro-group on the aromatic ring found to control the formation and loss of these species in the aerosol phase. Nitrophenols from both methyl chavicol and toluene photo-oxidation experiments showed a strong relationship with the NO2/NO (ppbv/ppbv) ratio and were observed during initial SOA growth. The location of the nitrophenol aromatic substitutions was found to be critically important, with the nitrophenol in the photo-oxidation of 4-methyl catechol not partitioning into the aerosol phase until irradiation had stopped; highlighting the importance of studying SOA formation and evolution at a molecular level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13168-13178
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number22
Early online date16 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b03377


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