Articles | Volume 14, issue 3
Research article
11 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 11 Feb 2014

Dynamic light absorption of biomass-burning organic carbon photochemically aged under natural sunlight

M. Zhong and M. Jang

Abstract. Wood-burning aerosol produced under smoldering conditions was photochemically aged with different relative humidity (RH) and NOx conditions using a 104 m3 dual outdoor chamber under natural sunlight. Light absorption of organic carbon (OC) was measured over the course of photooxidation using a UV–visible spectrometer connected to an integrating sphere. At high RH, the color decayed rapidly. NOx slightly prolonged the color of wood smoke, suggesting that NOx promotes the formation of chromophores via secondary processes. Overall, the mass absorption cross section (integrated between 280 and 600 nm) of OC increased by 11–54% (except high RH) in the morning and then gradually decreased by 19–68% in the afternoon. This dynamic change in light absorption of wood-burning OC can be explained by two mechanisms: chromophore formation and sunlight bleaching. To investigate the effect of chemical transformation on light absorption, wood smoke particles were characterized using various spectrometers. The intensity of fluorescence, which is mainly related to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), rapidly decreased with time, indicating the potential bleaching of PAHs. A decline of levoglucosan concentrations evinced the change of primary organic aerosol with time. The aerosol water content measured by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy showed that wood-burning aerosol became less hygroscopic as photooxidation proceeded. A similar trend in light absorption changes has been observed in ambient smoke aerosol originating from the 2012 County Line wildfire in Florida. We conclude that the biomass-burning OC becomes less light absorbing after 8–9 h sunlight exposure compared to fresh wood-burning OC.

Final-revised paper