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

Role of ozone in SOA formation from alkane photooxidation

X. Zhang, R. H. Schwantes, M. M. Coggon, C. L. Loza, K. A. Schilling, R. C. Flagan, and J. H. Seinfeld

Abstract. Long-chain alkanes, which can be categorized as intermediate volatility organic compounds, are an important source of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). Mechanisms for the gas-phase OH-initiated oxidation of long-chain alkanes have been well documented; particle-phase chemistry, however, has received less attention. The δ-hydroxycarbonyl, which is generated from the isomerization of alkoxy radicals, can undergo heterogeneous cyclization and dehydration to form substituted dihydrofuran. Due to the presence of C=C bonds, the substituted dihydrofuran is predicted to be highly reactive with OH, and even more so with O3 and NO3, thereby opening a reaction pathway that is not usually accessible to alkanes. This work focuses on the role of substituted dihydrofuran formation and its subsequent reaction with OH, and more importantly ozone, in SOA formation from the photooxidation of long-chain alkanes. Experiments were carried out in the Caltech Environmental Chamber using dodecane as a representative alkane to investigate the difference in aerosol composition generated from "OH-oxidation-dominating" vs. "ozonolysis-dominating" environments. A detailed mechanism incorporating the specific gas-phase photochemistry, together with the heterogeneous formation of substituted dihydrofuran and its subsequent gas-phase OH/O3 oxidation, is used to evaluate the importance of this reaction channel in dodecane SOA formation. We conclude that (1) the formation of δ-hydroxycarbonyl and its subsequent heterogeneous conversion to substituted dihydrofuran is significant in the presence of NOx; (2) the ozonolysis of substituted dihydrofuran dominates over the OH-initiated oxidation under conditions prevalent in urban and rural air; and (3) a spectrum of highly oxygenated products with carboxylic acid, ester, and ether functional groups are produced from the substituted dihydrofuran chemistry, thereby affecting the average oxidation state of the SOA.

Final-revised paper