Novel insight on photochemistry at interfaces: potential impact on Seconday Aerosol Formation?
Abstract:Traditionally, the driving forces for SOA growth is believed to be the partitioning onto aerosol seeds of condensable gases, either emitted primarily or resulting from the gas phase oxidation of organic gases. However, even the most up-to-date models based on such mechanisms cannot account for the SOA mass observed in the atmosphere, suggesting the existence of other, yet unknown formation processes. The present study shows experimental evidence that particulate phase chemistry produces photo-sensitizers that lead to photo-induced formation and growth of secondary organic aerosol in the near UV and the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as terpenes.
By means of an aerosol flow tube reactor equipped with Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS), Differential Mobility Analyzer (DMA) and Condensation Particle Sizer (CPC), we identified that traces in the aerosol phase of glyoxal chemistry products, namely imidazole-2-carboxaldehyde (IC) are strong photo-sensitizers when irradiated with near-UV. In the presence of volatile organic compounds such as terpenes, this chemistry leads to a fast aerosol growth.
Given the potential importance of this new photosensitized growth pathway for ambient OA, the related reaction mechanism was investigated at a molecular level. Bulk and flow tube experiments were performed to identify major products of the reaction of limonene with the triplet state of IC by direct (+/-)ESI-HRMS and UPLC/(+/-)HESI-HRMS analysis. Detection of recombination products of IC with limonene or with itself, in bulk and flow tube experiment ts, showed that IC is able to initiate a radical chemistry in the aerosol phase under realistic irradiation conditions. Furthermore, highly oxygenated limonene reaction products were detected, clearly explaining the observed OA growth. The chemistry of peroxy radicals derived from limonene upon addition of oxygen explains the formation of such low-volatile compounds without any traditional gas phase oxidant.
These results demonstrate that, upon ageing, organic aerosols can produce photo-sensitizers which auto-photo-catalyse their SOA growth.