Impact of molecular structure on secondary organic aerosol formation from aromatic hydrocarbon photooxidation under low-NOx conditions
- 1University of California, Riverside, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Riverside, CA 92507, USA
- 2College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), Riverside, CA 92507, USA
- acurrently at: Clarkson University, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Potsdam, NY 13699, USA
Abstract. The molecular structure of volatile organic compounds determines their oxidation pathway, directly impacting secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. This study comprehensively investigates the impact of molecular structure on SOA formation from the photooxidation of 12 different eight- to nine-carbon aromatic hydrocarbons under low-NOx conditions. The effects of the alkyl substitute number, location, carbon chain length and branching structure on the photooxidation of aromatic hydrocarbons are demonstrated by analyzing SOA yield, chemical composition and physical properties. Aromatic hydrocarbons, categorized into five groups, show a yield order of ortho (o-xylene and o-ethyltoluene) > one substitute (ethylbenzene, propylbenzene and isopropylbenzene) > meta (m-xylene and m-ethyltoluene) > three substitute (trimethylbenzenes) > para (p-xylene and p-ethyltoluene). SOA yields of aromatic hydrocarbon photooxidation do not monotonically decrease when increasing alkyl substitute number. The ortho position promotes SOA formation while the para position suppresses aromatic oxidation and SOA formation. Observed SOA chemical composition and volatility confirm that higher yield is associated with further oxidation. SOA chemical composition also suggests that aromatic oxidation increases with increasing alkyl substitute chain length and branching structure. Further, carbon dilution conjecture developed by Li et al. (2016) is extended in this study to serve as a standard method to determine the extent of oxidation of an alkyl-substituted aromatic hydrocarbon.