Modeling SOA formation from the oxidation of intermediate volatility n-alkanes
Abstract. The chemical mechanism leading to SOA formation and ageing is expected to be a multigenerational process, i.e. a successive formation of organic compounds with higher oxidation degree and lower vapor pressure. This process is here investigated with the explicit oxidation model GECKO-A (Generator of Explicit Chemistry and Kinetics of Organics in the Atmosphere). Gas phase oxidation schemes are generated for the C8–C24 series of n-alkanes. Simulations are conducted to explore the time evolution of organic compounds and the behavior of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation for various preexisting organic aerosol concentration (COA). As expected, simulation results show that (i) SOA yield increases with the carbon chain length of the parent hydrocarbon, (ii) SOA yield decreases with decreasing COA, (iii) SOA production rates increase with increasing COA and (iv) the number of oxidation steps (i.e. generations) needed to describe SOA formation and evolution grows when COA decreases. The simulated oxidative trajectories are examined in a two dimensional space defined by the mean carbon oxidation state and the volatility. Most SOA contributors are not oxidized enough to be categorized as highly oxygenated organic aerosols (OOA) but reduced enough to be categorized as hydrocarbon like organic aerosols (HOA), suggesting that OOA may underestimate SOA. Results show that the model is unable to produce highly oxygenated aerosols (OOA) with large yields. The limitations of the model are discussed.