Methylglyoxal at the Air-Water Interface

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sumi Natalie Wren, Brittany P Gordon, Laura McWilliams, Nicholas A Valley and Geraldine Richmond, University of Oregon, Chemistry, Eugene, OR, United States
Recently, it has been suggested that aqueous-phase processing of atmospheric α-dicarbonyl compounds such as methylglyoxal (MG) could constitute an important source of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). The uptake of MG to aqueous particles is higher than expected due to the fact that its carbonyl moieties can hydrate to form diols, as well as the fact that MG can undergo aldol condensation reactions to form larger oligomers in solution. MG is known to be surface active but an improved description of its surface behaviour is crucial to understanding MG-SOA formation, in addition to understanding its gas-to-particle partitioning and cloud forming potential. Here, we employ a combined experimental and theoretical approach involving vibrational sum frequency generation spectroscopy (VSFS), surface tensiometry, molecular dynamics simulations, and density functional theory calculations to study MG’s surface adsorption, in both the presence and absence of salts. We are particularly interested in determining MG’s hydration state at the surface. Our experimental results indicate that MG slowly adsorbs to the air-water interface and strongly perturbs the water structure there. This perturbation is enhanced in the presence of NaCl. Together our experimental and theoretical results suggest that singly-hydrated MG is the dominant form of MG at the surface.