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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Mar 5;47(5):2230-7. doi: 10.1021/es303891q. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Molecular transformations accompanying the aging of laboratory secondary organic aerosol.

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  • 1United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Center, Parlier, California 93648, United States.


The aging of fresh secondary organic aerosol (SOA), formed in a flow tube reactor by α-pinene ozonolysis, was studied by passing the fresh SOA into a second chamber for reaction with high levels of the hydroxyl radical. Two types of experiments were performed: (1) injection of a short plug of fresh SOA into the second chamber, where the particle mass and average O/C mole ratio were measured as a function of time after injection, and (2) injection of a continuous stream of fresh SOA into the second chamber, where particles were collected on a filter over a period of time for off line analysis by high performance mass spectrometry. These setups allowed the chemistry of SOA aging to be elucidated. The particle mass decreased and average O/C ratio increased with increasing aging time. Aged SOA showed an oligomer distribution shifted to lower molecular weight (fragmentation) and molecular formulas with higher O/C and lower H/C ratios (functionalization). Carbon oxidation states of individual molecules were higher for aged SOA, 0 to +2, than fresh SOA, -1 to 0. Tandem mass spectrometry of oligomers from fresh SOA showed small neutral losses associated with less oxidized functional groups such as aldehydes and ketones, while oligomers from aged SOA showed losses associated with more highly oxidized groups such as acids and peroxyacids. Product ion spectra of fresh SOA showed monomer building blocks with formulas corresponding to primary ozonolysis products such as pinic and pinonic acids, whereas aged SOA monomer building blocks corresponded to extremely oxidized products such as dimethyltricarballylic acid.

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