Suppression of anthropogenic secondary organic aerosol formation by isoprene

Kangwei Li*, Xin Zhang, Bin Zhao, William J. Bloss, Chao Lin, Stephen White, Hai Yu, Linghong Chen, Chunmei Geng, Wen Yang, Merched Azzi, Christian George, Zhipeng Bai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) represents a major fraction of atmospheric fine particles. Both biogenic and anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can contribute to SOA through (photo-) oxidation. However, the current understanding of their combined, interactive effect on SOA formation and composition is still limited, challenging the accuracy in assessing global SOA budget, sources, and climate effect. Here we combine laboratory experiments and modelling to show that isoprene can suppress SOA formation from photo-oxidation of anthropogenic aromatics (toluene and p-xylene) with the presence of NOx, and similar SOA suppression phenomena are observed when replacing isoprene with propene. We find that the decreased SOA in such mixed-VOC conditions can be largely attributed to OH scavenging effect, resulting in reduced consumption of parent aromatics. However, various changes in SOA oxidation state (i.e., O/C) and oxidation pathways (i.e., more carbonyls formation) are observed following addition of isoprene, and the SOA chemical composition may not be similar to any single parent hydrocarbon, which implies the existence of complex interactions between the degradation chemistry for alkenes and aromatics. Under the conditions of this work, the OH scavenging effect is largely determined by gas-phase chemistry, which is expected to be widespread in binary or more complex systems in ambient air. More broadly, we infer that the global budget of anthropogenic SOA and its corresponding radiative forcing could be affected by biogenic emission of isoprene, particularly in urban environments with appreciable vegetation coverage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Journalnpj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

We thank Zhier Bao, Lixia Han, Xingya Zhao, and Yanyun Zhao for their assistance with the experiments. We also thank Chunshan Liu of Beijing Convenient Environmental Tech Co. Ltd for his help and support in smog chamber setup. This work was supported by Ministry of Science and Technology PR China (No. G2021060002L).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Atmospheric Science


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