Ozonolysis of fatty acid monolayers at the air–water interface: organic films may persist at the surface of atmospheric aerosols

Ben Woden, Max Skoda, Adam Milsom, Armando Maestro, James Tellam, Christian Pfrang

Research output: Working paper/PreprintDiscussion paper


Ozonolysis of fatty acid monolayers was studied to understand the fate of organic-coated aerosols under realistic atmospheric conditions. Specifically, we investigated the effects of temperature and salinity on the degradation of oleic acid at the air–water interface and the persistence of the aged surfactant film at the surface. The presence of a residual film is of atmospheric importance, as surface monolayers affect the physical properties of the droplets and because of the role they play in cloud formation. This occurs via several effects, most notably via surface tension reduction. The interplay between atmospheric aerosol loading and the formation, nature, and persistence of clouds is a key uncertainty in climate modelling.

Our data show that a residual surface film, which we suspect to be formed of nonanoic acid and a mixture of azelaic and 9-oxononanoic acids, is retained at the interface after ozonolysis at near-freezing temperatures, but not at room temperature. Given the low temperature conditions used here are atmospherically realistic, the persistence of a product film must be considered when assessing the impact of unsaturated fatty acid partitioned to the air–water interface. The presence of stable (non-oxidisable) reaction products also opens the possibility of build-up of inert monolayers during the aerosol life-cycle with potential implications for cloud formation. We also measured the kinetic behaviour of these films and found that the reactions are not significantly affected by the shift to a lower temperature with rate coefficients determined to be (2.2 ± 0.4) × 10−10 cm2 s−1 at 21 ± 1 °C, and (2.2 ± 0.2) × 10−10 cm2 s−1 at 2 ± 1 °C.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEuropean Geosciences Union
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2020

Publication series

NameAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions


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