Articles | Volume 15, issue 17
Research article
14 Sep 2015
Research article |  | 14 Sep 2015

Chemical aging of single and multicomponent biomass burning aerosol surrogate particles by OH: implications for cloud condensation nucleus activity

J. H. Slade, R. Thalman, J. Wang, and D. A. Knopf

Abstract. Multiphase OH and O3 oxidation reactions with atmospheric organic aerosol (OA) can influence particle physicochemical properties including composition, morphology, and lifetime. Chemical aging of initially insoluble or low-soluble single-component OA by OH and O3 can increase their water solubility and hygroscopicity, making them more active as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and susceptible to wet deposition. However, an outstanding problem is whether the effects of chemical aging on their CCN activity are preserved when mixed with other organic or inorganic compounds exhibiting greater water solubility. In this work, the CCN activity of laboratory-generated biomass burning aerosol (BBA) surrogate particles exposed to OH and O3 is evaluated by determining the hygroscopicity parameter, κ, as a function of particle type, mixing state, and OH and O3 exposure applying a CCN counter (CCNc) coupled to an aerosol flow reactor (AFR). Levoglucosan (LEV), 4-methyl-5-nitrocatechol (MNC), and potassium sulfate (KS) serve as representative BBA compounds that exhibit different hygroscopicity, water solubility, chemical functionalities, and reactivity with OH radicals, and thus exemplify the complexity of mixed inorganic/organic aerosol in the atmosphere. The CCN activities of all of the particles were unaffected by O3 exposure. Following exposure to OH, κ of MNC was enhanced by an order of magnitude, from 0.009 to ~ 0.1, indicating that chemically aged MNC particles are better CCN and more prone to wet deposition than pure MNC particles. No significant enhancement in κ was observed for pure LEV particles following OH exposure. κ of the internally mixed particles was not affected by OH oxidation. Furthermore, the CCN activity of OH-exposed MNC-coated KS particles is similar to the OH unexposed atomized 1 : 1 by mass MNC : KS binary-component particles. Our results strongly suggest that when OA is dominated by water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) or inorganic ions, chemical aging has no significant impact on OA hygroscopicity. The organic compounds exhibiting low solubility behave as if they are infinitely soluble when mixed with a sufficient number of water-soluble compounds. At and beyond this point, the particles' CCN activity is governed entirely by the water-soluble fraction and is not influenced by the oxidized organic fraction. Our results have important implications for heterogeneous oxidation and its impact on cloud formation given that atmospheric aerosol is a complex mixture of organic and inorganic compounds exhibiting a wide range of solubilities.

Short summary
Aerosol particles undergo chemical modification during atmospheric transport due to reactions with trace gas species such as OH radicals affecting cloud formation and, thus, prediction of climate. Here, the cloud formation potential of surrogate biomass burning aerosol (BBA) is studied as a function of particle composition and OH exposure. We find that OH oxidation can alter the cloud formation potential of BBA, but its significance depends on the available water-soluble particulate material.
Final-revised paper