Effect of salt seed particle surface area, composition and phase on secondary organic aerosol mass yields in oxidation flow reactors
Atmospheric particulate water is ubiquitous, affecting particle transport and uptake of gases. Yet, research on the effect of water on secondary organic aerosol (SOA) mass yields is not consistent. In this study, the SOA mass yields of an α-pinene and m-xylene mixture, at a concentration of 60 µg m−3, were examined using an oxidation flow reactor operated at a relative humidity (RH) of 60 % and a residence time of 160 s. Wet or dried ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate seed particles were used. By varying the amount of seed particle surface area, the underestimation of SOA formation induced by the short residence time in flow reactors was confirmed. Starting at a SOA mass concentration of ∼5 µg m−3, the maximum yield increased by a factor of ∼2 with dry seed particles and on average a factor of 3.2 with wet seed particles. Hence, wet particles increased the SOA mass yield by ∼60 % compared to the dry experiment. Maximum yield in the reactor was achieved using a surface area concentration of ∼1600 µm2 cm−3. This corresponded to a condensational lifetime of 20 s for low-volatility organics. The O:C ratio of SOA on wet ammonium sulfate was significantly higher than when using ammonium nitrate or dry ammonium sulfate seed particles, probably due to differences in heterogeneous chemistry.