Real-time measurements of secondary organic aerosol formation and aging from ambient air in an oxidation flow reactor in the Los Angeles area Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. Field studies in polluted areas over the last decade have observed large formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) that is often poorly captured by models. The study of SOA formation using ambient data is often confounded by the effects of advection, vertical mixing, emissions, and variable degrees of photochemical aging. An Oxidation Flow Reactor (OFR) was deployed to study SOA formation in real-time during the CalNex campaign in Pasadena, CA, in 2010. A high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) and a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) alternated sampling ambient and reactor-aged air. The reactor produced OH concentrations up to 4 orders of magnitude higher than in ambient air, achieving equivalent atmospheric aging from hours up to several weeks in 3 min of processing. OH radical concentration was continuously stepped, obtaining measurements of real-time SOA formation and oxidation at multiple equivalent ages from 0.8 days–6.4 weeks. Enhancement of OA from aging showed a maximum net SOA production between 0.8–6 days of aging with net OA mass loss beyond 2 weeks. Reactor SOA mass peaked at night, in the absence of ambient photochemistry, and correlated with trimethylbenzene concentrations. Reactor SOA formation was inversely correlated with ambient SOA and Ox, which along with the short-lived VOC correlation, indicates the importance of relatively reactive (τOH ∼ 0.3 day) SOA precursors in the LA-Basin. Evolution of the elemental composition in the reactor was similar to trends observed in the atmosphere (O : C vs. H : C slope ∼ -0.65). Oxidation state of carbon (OSC) in reactor SOA increased steeply with age and remained elevated (OSC ∼ 2) at the highest photochemical ages probed. The ratio of OA in the reactor output to excess CO (ΔCO, ambient CO above regional background) vs. photochemical age is similar to previous studies at low to moderate ages and also extends to higher ages where OA loss dominates. The mass added at low-to-intermediate ages is due primarily to condensation of oxidized species, not heterogeneous oxidation. The OA decrease at high photochemical ages is dominated by heterogeneous oxidation followed by fragmentation/evaporation. A comparison of urban SOA formation in this study with a similar study of vehicle SOA in a tunnel supports the dominance of vehicle emissions in urban SOA. Pre-2007 SOA models underpredict SOA formation by an order of magnitude, while a more recent model performs better but overpredicts at higher ages. These results demonstrate the value of the reactor as a tool for in situ evaluation of the SOA formation potential and OA evolution from ambient air.;

publication date

  • August 13, 2015

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • June 25, 2021 7:27 AM

Full Author List

  • Ortega AM; Hayes PL; Peng Z; Palm BB; Hu W; Day DA; Li R; Cubison MJ; Brune WH; Graus M

author count

  • 15

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