Chemical characterization of the main products formed through aqueous-phase photonitration of guaiacol
Guaiacol (2-methoxyphenol) and its derivatives can be emitted into the atmosphere by thermal degradation (i.e., burning) of wood lignins. Due to its volatility, guaiacol is predominantly distributed atmospherically in the gaseous phase. Recent studies have shown the importance of aqueous-phase reactions in addition to the dominant gas-phase and heterogeneous reactions of guaiacol, in the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) in the atmosphere. The main objectives of the present study were to chemically characterize the main products of the aqueous-phase photonitration of guaiacol and examine their possible presence in urban atmospheric aerosols. The aqueous-phase reactions were carried out under simulated sunlight and in the presence of hydrogen peroxide and nitrite. The formed guaiacol reaction products were concentrated by solid-phase extraction and then purified with semi-preparative high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The fractionated individual compounds were isolated as pure solids and further analyzed with liquid-state proton, carbon-13 and two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and direct infusion negative ion electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry ((−)ESI-MS/MS). The NMR and product ion (MS 2) spectra were used for unambiguous product structure elucidation. The main products of guaiacol photonitration are 4-nitroguaiacol (4NG), 6-nitroguaiacol (6NG), and 4,6-dinitroguaiacol (4,6DNG). Using the isolated compounds as standards, 4NG and 4,6DNG were unambiguously identified in winter PM 10 aerosols from the city of Ljubljana (Slovenia) by means of HPLC/(−)ESI-MS/MS. Owing to the strong absorption of ultraviolet and visible light, 4,6DNG could be an important constituent of atmospheric "brown" carbon, especially in regions affected by biomass burning.