Articles | Volume 11, issue 14
Research article
18 Jul 2011
Research article |  | 18 Jul 2011

Artifacts in measuring aerosol uptake kinetics: the roles of time, concentration and adsorption

L. H. Renbaum and G. D. Smith

Abstract. In laboratory studies of organic aerosol particles reacting with gas-phase oxidants, high concentrations of radicals are often used to study on the timescale of seconds reactions which may be occurring over days or weeks in the troposphere. Implicit in this approach is the assumption that radical concentration and time are interchangeable parameters, though this has not been established. Here, the kinetics of OH- and Cl-initiated oxidation reactions of model single-component liquid (squalane) and supercooled (brassidic acid and 2-octyldodecanoic acid) organic aerosols are studied by varying separately the radical concentration and the reaction time. Two separate flow tubes with residence times of 2 and 66 s are used, and [OH] and [Cl] are varied by adjusting either the laser photolysis fluence or the radical precursor concentration ([O3] or [Cl2], respectively) used to generate the radicals. It is found that the rates measured by varying the radical concentration and the reaction time are equal only if the precursor concentrations are the same in the two approaches. Further, the rates depend on the concentrations of the precursor species with a Langmuir-type functional form suggesting that O3 and Cl2 saturate the surface of the liquid particles. It is believed that the presence of O3 inhibits the rate of OH reaction, perhaps by reacting with OH radicals or by O3 or intermediate species blocking surface sites, while Cl2 enhances the rate of Cl reaction by participating in a radical chain mechanism. These results have important implications for laboratory experiments in which high concentrations of gas-phase oxidants are used to study atmospheric reactions over short timescales and may explain the variability in recent measurements of the reactive uptake of OH on squalane particles in reactor systems used in this and other laboratories.

Final-revised paper