Articles | Volume 15, issue 23
Research article
09 Dec 2015
Research article |  | 09 Dec 2015

Reactive uptake of ammonia to secondary organic aerosols: kinetics of organonitrogen formation

Y. Liu, J. Liggio, R. Staebler, and S.-M. Li

Abstract. As a class of brown carbon, organonitrogen compounds originating from the heterogeneous uptake of NH3 by secondary organic aerosol (SOA) have received significant attention recently. In the current work, particulate organonitrogen formation during the ozonolysis of α-pinene and the OH oxidation of m-xylene in the presence of ammonia (34–125 ppb) was studied in a smog chamber equipped with a high resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer and a quantum cascade laser instrument. A large diversity of nitrogen-containing organic (NOC) fragments was observed which were consistent with the reactions between ammonia and carbonyl-containing SOA. Ammonia uptake coefficients onto SOA which led to organonitrogen compounds were reported for the first time, and were in the range of ∼ 10-3–10−2, decreasing significantly to < 10-5 after 6 h of reaction. At the end of experiments (~ 6 h) the NOC mass contributed 8.9 ± 1.7 and 31.5 ± 4.4 wt % to the total α-pinene- and m-xylene-derived SOA, respectively, and 4–15 wt % of the total nitrogen in the system. Uptake coefficients were also found to be positively correlated with particle acidity and negatively correlated with NH3 concentration, indicating that heterogeneous reactions were responsible for the observed NOC mass, possibly limited by liquid phase diffusion. Under these conditions, the data also indicate that the formation of NOC can compete kinetically with inorganic acid neutralization. The formation of NOC in this study suggests that a significant portion of the ambient particle associated N may be derived from NH3 heterogeneous reactions with SOA. NOC from such a mechanism may be an important and unaccounted for source of PM associated nitrogen. This mechanism may also contribute to the medium or long-range transport and wet/dry deposition of atmospheric nitrogen.

Short summary
This work for the first time demonstrated that organonitrogen compounds (NOC) can be formed efficiently via the uptake of ammonia by newly formed secondary organic aerosol using a smog chamber equipped with a HR-ToF-AMS. Based on the measured kinetics, this study suggests that light absorption by NOC in atmospheric particles may be important in regions where the BC contribution is minimal and NOC from ammonia should be considered with respect to overall deposition of nitrogen to ecosystems.
Final-revised paper