The role of low volatile organics on secondary organic aerosol formation
Abstract. Large-scale atmospheric models, which typically describe secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation based on chamber experiments, tend to systematically underestimate observed organic aerosol burdens. Since SOA constitutes a significant fraction of atmospheric aerosol, this discrepancy translates into an underestimation of SOA contribution to radiative forcing of atmospheric aerosol. Here we show that the underestimation of SOA yields can be partly explained by wall losses of SOA forming compounds during chamber experiments. We present a chamber experiment where α-pinene and ozone are injected into a Teflon chamber. When these two compounds react, we observe rapid formation and growth of new particles. Theoretical analysis of this formation and growth event indicates rapid formation of oxidized volatile organic compounds (OVOC) of very low volatility in the chamber. If these oxidized organic compounds form in the gas phase, their wall losses will have significant implications on their partitioning between the gas and particle phase. Although these OVOCs of very low volatility contribute to the growth of new particles, their mass will almost completely be depleted to the chamber walls during the experiment, while the depletion of OVOCs of higher volatilities is less efficient. According to our model simulations, the volatilities of OVOC contributing to the new particle formation event can be of the order of 10−5 μg m−3.