Articles | Volume 16, issue 24
Research article
16 Dec 2016
Research article |  | 16 Dec 2016

Size-dependent chemical ageing of oleic acid aerosol under dry and humidified conditions

Suad S. Al-Kindi, Francis D. Pope, David C. Beddows, William J. Bloss, and Roy M. Harrison

Abstract. A chemical reaction chamber system has been developed for the processing of oleic acid aerosol particles with ozone under two relative humidity conditions: dry and humidified to 65 %. The apparatus consists of an aerosol flow tube, in which the ozonolysis occurs, coupled to a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) and an aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometer (ATOFMS) which measure the evolving particle size and composition. Under both relative humidity conditions, ozonolysis results in a significant decrease in particle size and mass which is consistent with the formation of volatile products that partition from the particle to the gas phase. Mass spectra derived from the ATOFMS reveal the presence of the typically observed reaction products: azelaic acid, nonanal, oxononanoic acid and nonanoic acid, as well as a range of higher molecular weight products deriving from the reactions of reaction intermediates with oleic acid and its oxidation products. These include octanoic acid and 9- and 10-oxooctadecanoic acid, as well as products of considerably higher molecular weight. Quantitative evaluation of product yields with the ATOFMS shows a marked dependence upon both particle size association (from 0.3 to 2.1 µm diameter) and relative humidity. Under both relative humidity conditions, the percentage residual of oleic acid increases with increasing particle size and the main lower molecular weight products are nonanal and oxononanoic acid. Under dry conditions, the percentage of higher molecular weight products increases with increasing particle size due to the poorer internal mixing of the larger particles. Under humidified conditions, the percentage of unreacted oleic acid is greater, except in the smallest particle fraction, with little formation of high molecular weight products relative to the dry particles. It is postulated that water reacts with reactive intermediates, competing with the processes which produce high molecular weight products. Whilst the oleic acid model aerosol system is of limited relevance to complex internally mixed atmospheric aerosol, the generic findings presented in this paper give useful insights into the nature of heterogeneous chemical processes.

Short summary
Oleic acid is a chemical substance which is emitted from cooking processes and is present as tiny particles in the atmosphere. The oleic acid in the particles reacts chemically with atmospheric ozone, causing substantial changes to the composition of the particles. This paper uses new techniques to explore these chemical reactions and the effect of humidity upon them. The significance of the results for the atmosphere is considered.
Final-revised paper