Laboratory studies of the aqueous-phase oxidation of polyols: submicron particles vs. bulk aqueous solution
- Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Abstract. Oxidation in the atmospheric aqueous phase (cloud droplets and deliquesced particles) has received recent attention as a potential pathway for the formation of highly oxidized organic aerosol. Most laboratory studies of aqueous-phase oxidation, however, are carried out in bulk solutions rather than aqueous droplets. Here we describe experiments in which aqueous oxidation of polyols (water-soluble species with chemical formula CnH2n+2On) is carried out within submicron particles in an environmental chamber, allowing for significant gas–particle partitioning of reactants, intermediates, and products. Dark Fenton chemistry is used as a source of hydroxyl radicals, and oxidation is monitored using a high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS). Aqueous oxidation is rapid, and results in the formation of particulate oxalate; this is accompanied by substantial loss of carbon to the gas phase, indicating the formation of volatile products. Results are compared to those from analogous oxidation reactions carried out in bulk solution. The bulk-phase chemistry is similar to that in the particles, but with substantially less carbon loss. This is likely due to differences in partitioning of early-generation products, which evaporate out of the aqueous phase under chamber conditions (in which liquid water content is low), but remain in solution for further aqueous processing in the bulk phase. This work suggests that the product distributions from oxidation in aqueous aerosol may be substantially different from those in bulk oxidation experiments. This highlights the need for aqueous oxidation studies to be carried out under atmospherically relevant partitioning conditions, with liquid water contents mimicking those of cloud droplets or aqueous aerosol.