Articles | Volume 14, issue 23
Research article
11 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 11 Dec 2014

Novel methods for predicting gas–particle partitioning during the formation of secondary organic aerosol

F. Wania, Y. D. Lei, C. Wang, J. P. D. Abbatt, and K.-U. Goss

Abstract. Several methods have been presented in the literature to predict an organic chemical's equilibrium partitioning between the water insoluble organic matter (WIOM) component of aerosol and the gas phase, Ki,WIOM, as a function of temperature. They include (i) polyparameter linear free energy relationships calibrated with empirical aerosol sorption data, as well as (ii) the solvation models implemented in SPARC and (iii) the quantum-chemical software COSMOtherm, which predict solvation equilibria from molecular structure alone. We demonstrate that these methods can be used to predict Ki,WIOM for large numbers of individual molecules implicated in secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation, including those with multiple functional groups. Although very different in their theoretical foundations, these methods give remarkably consistent results for the products of the reaction of normal alkanes with OH, i.e. their partition coefficients Ki,WIOM generally agree within one order of magnitude over a range of more than ten orders of magnitude. This level of agreement is much better than that achieved by different vapour pressure estimation methods that are more commonly used in the SOA community. Also, in contrast to the agreement between vapour pressure estimates, the agreement between the Ki,WIOM estimates does not deteriorate with increasing number of functional groups. Furthermore, these partitioning coefficients Ki,WIOM predicted SOA mass yields in agreement with those measured in chamber experiments of the oxidation of normal alkanes. If a Ki,WIOM prediction method was based on one or more surrogate molecules representing the solvation properties of the mixed OM phase of SOA, the choice of those molecule(s) was found to have a relatively minor effect on the predicted Ki,WIOM, as long as the molecule(s) are not very polar. This suggests that a single surrogate molecule, such as 1-octanol or a hypothetical SOA structure proposed by Kalberer et al. (2004), may often be sufficient to represent the WIOM component of the SOA phase, greatly simplifying the prediction. The presented methods could substitute for vapour-pressure-based methods in studies such as the explicit modelling of SOA formation from single precursor molecules in chamber experiments.

Short summary
A description of the formation of secondary organic aerosol requires the prediction of the partitioning equilibrium of organic compounds with multiple functional groups between gas and organic particle phase. While this is typically done by predicting both the saturation vapour pressure and the activity coefficient in the organic particle phase, we demonstrate here that it is feasible to predict the partitioning equilibrium directly. This direct approach has greater precision.
Final-revised paper