Insights into secondary organic aerosol formation from the day- and nighttime oxidation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and furans in an oxidation flow reactor


  • El Mais Abd El Rahman
  • d'Anna Barbara
  • Drinovec Luka
  • Lambe Andrew T
  • Peng Zhe
  • Petit Jean-Eudes
  • Favez Olivier
  • Aït-Aïssa Selim
  • Albinet Alexandre

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Secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) formed by oxidation of typical precursors largely emitted by biomass burning, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and furans, are still poorly characterized. We evaluated and compared the formation yields, effective density (ρ eff), absorption Ångström exponent (α), and mass absorption coefficient (MAC) of laboratory-generated SOAs from three furan compounds and four PAHs. SOAs were generated in an oxidation flow reactor under day-(OH radicals) or nighttime (NO 3 radicals) conditions. The ρ eff , formation yields, α, and MAC of the generated SOAs varied depending on the precursor and oxidant considered. The ρ eff of SOAs formed with OH and NO 3 tended to increase with particle size before reaching a "plateau", highlighting potential differences in SOA chemical composition and/or morphology, according to the particle size. Three times lower SOA formation yields were obtained with NO 3 compared with OH. The yields of PAH SOAs (18 %-76 %) were five to six times higher than those obtained for furans (3 %-12 %). While furan SOAs showed low or negligible light absorption properties, PAH SOAs had a significant impact in the UV-visible region, implying a significant contribution to atmospheric brown carbon. No increase in the MAC values was observed from OH to NO 3 oxidation processes, probably due to a low formation of nitrogen-containing chromophores with NO 3 only (without NO x). The results obtained demonstrated that PAHs are significant SOA precursors emitted by biomass burning, through both, day-and nighttime processes, and have a substantial impact on the aerosol light absorption properties.

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