Secondary organic aerosol formation from OH-initiated oxidation of <i>m</i>-xylene: effects of relative humidity on yield and chemical composition

Zhang, Qun; Xu, Yongfu; Jia, Long

The effect of relative humidity (RH) on secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from the photooxidation of m-xylene initiated by OH radicals in the absence of seed particles was investigated in a Teflon reactor. The SOA yields were determined based on the particle mass concentrations measured with a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) and reacted m-xylene concentrations measured with a gas chromatograph–mass spectrometer (GC-MS). The SOA components were analyzed using a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer and an ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatograph–electrospray ionization–high-resolution mass spectrometer (UPLC-ESI-HRMS). A significant decrease was observed in SOA mass concentration and yield variation with the increasing RH conditions. The SOA yields are 14.0 %–16.5 % and 0.8 %–3.2 % at low RH (14 %) and high RH (74 %–79 %), respectively, with the difference being nearly 1 order of magnitude. Some of the reduction in the apparent yield may be due to the faster wall loss of semi-volatile products of oxidation at higher RH. The chemical mechanism for explaining the RH effects on SOA formation from m-xylene–OH system is proposed based on the analysis of both FTIR and HRMS measurements, and the Master Chemical Mechanism (MCM) prediction is used as the assistant. The FTIR analysis shows that the proportion of oligomers with C-O-C groups from carbonyl compounds in SOA at high RH is higher than that at low RH, but further information cannot be provided by the FTIR results to well explain the negative RH effect on SOA formation. In the HRMS spectra, it is found that C2H2O is one of the most frequent mass differences at low and high RHs, that the compounds with a lower carbon number in the formula at low RH account for a larger proportion than those at high RH and that the compounds at high RH have higher O : C ratios than those at low RH. The HRMS results suggest that the RH may suppress oligomerization where water is involved as a by-product and may influence the further particle-phase reaction of highly oxygenated organic molecules (HOMs) formed in the gas phase. In addition, the negative RH effect on SOA formation is enlarged based on the gas-to-particle partitioning rule.

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Zhang, Qun / Xu, Yongfu / Jia, Long: Secondary organic aerosol formation from OH-initiated oxidation of <i>m</i>-xylene: effects of relative humidity on yield and chemical composition. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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