Articles | Volume 16, issue 22
Research article
16 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 16 Nov 2016

Synergetic formation of secondary inorganic and organic aerosol: effect of SO2 and NH3 on particle formation and growth

Biwu Chu, Xiao Zhang, Yongchun Liu, Hong He, Yele Sun, Jingkun Jiang, Junhua Li, and Jiming Hao

Abstract. The effects of SO2 and NH3 on secondary organic aerosol formation have rarely been investigated together, while the interactive effects between inorganic and organic species under highly complex pollution conditions remain uncertain. Here we studied the effects of SO2 and NH3 on secondary aerosol formation in the photooxidation system of toluene∕NOx in the presence or absence of Al2O3 seed aerosols in a 2 m3 smog chamber. The presence of SO2 increased new particle formation and particle growth significantly, regardless of whether NH3 was present. Sulfate, organic aerosol, nitrate, and ammonium were all found to increase linearly with increasing SO2 concentrations. The increases in these four species were more obvious under NH3-rich conditions, and the generation of nitrate, ammonium, and organic aerosol increased more significantly than sulfate with respect to SO2 concentration, while sulfate was the most sensitive species under NH3-poor conditions. The synergistic effects between SO2 and NH3 in the heterogeneous process contributed greatly to secondary aerosol formation. Specifically, the generation of NH4NO3 was found to be highly dependent on the surface area concentration of suspended particles, and increased most significantly with SO2 concentration among the four species under NH3-rich conditions. Meanwhile, the absorbed NH3 might provide a liquid surface layer for the absorption and subsequent reaction of SO2 and organic products and, therefore, enhance sulfate and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. This effect mainly occurred in the heterogeneous process and resulted in a significantly higher growth rate of seed aerosols compared to without NH3. By applying positive matrix factorisation (PMF) analysis to the AMS data, two factors were identified for the generated SOA. One factor, assigned to less-oxidised organic aerosol and some oligomers, increased with increasing SO2 under NH3-poor conditions, mainly due to the well-known acid catalytic effect of the acid products on SOA formation in the heterogeneous process. The other factor, assigned to the highly oxidised organic component and some nitrogen-containing organics (NOC), increased with SO2 under a NH3-rich environment, with NOC (organonitrates and NOC with reduced N) contributing most of the increase.

Short summary
The interactive effects between inorganic and organic species under highly complex pollution conditions remain uncertain and were studied in a smog chamber. This study indicated that the synergistic formation of secondary inorganic and organic aerosol might increase the secondary aerosol load in the atmosphere and contribute haze pollution in eastern China. These synergistic effects were related to the heterogeneous process on aerosol surface and need to be considered in air quality models.
Final-revised paper