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Photo-oxidation of Aromatic Hydrocarbons Produces Low-Volatility Organic Compounds

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7911-7921
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


To better understand the role of aromatic hydrocarbons in new-particle formation, we measured the particle-phase abundance and volatility of oxidation products following the reaction of aromatic hydrocarbons with OH radicals. For this we used thermal desorption in an iodide-adduct Time-of-Flight Chemical-Ionization Mass Spectrometer equipped with a Filter Inlet for Gases and AEROsols (FIGAERO-ToF-CIMS). The particle-phase volatility measurements confirm that oxidation products of toluene and naphthalene can contribute to the initial growth of newly formed particles. Toluene-derived (C7) oxidation products have a similar volatility distribution to that of α-pinene-derived (C10) oxidation products, while naphthalene-derived (C10) oxidation products are much less volatile than those from toluene or α-pinene; they are thus stronger contributors to growth. Rapid progression through multiple generations of oxidation is more pronounced in toluene and naphthalene than in α-pinene, resulting in more oxidation but also favoring functional groups with much lower volatility per added oxygen atom, such as hydroxyl and carboxylic groups instead of hydroperoxide groups. Under conditions typical of polluted urban settings, naphthalene may well contribute to nucleation and the growth of the smallest particles, whereas the more abundant alkyl benzenes may overtake naphthalene once the particles have grown beyond the point where the Kelvin effect strongly influences the condensation driving force.

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Field of science, Statistics Finland