Secondary organic aerosol from atmospheric photooxidation of indole
Abstract. Indole is a heterocyclic compound emitted by various plant species under stressed conditions or during flowering events. The formation, optical properties, and chemical composition of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formed by low-NOx photooxidation of indole were investigated. The SOA yield (1. 3 ± 0. 3) was estimated from measuring the particle mass concentration with a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) and correcting it for wall loss effects. The high value of the SOA mass yield suggests that most oxidized indole products eventually end up in the particle phase. The SOA particles were collected on filters and analysed offline with UV–vis spectrophotometry to measure the mass absorption coefficient (MAC) of the bulk sample. The samples were visibly brown and had MAC values of ∼ 2 m2 g−1 at λ = 300 nm and ∼ 0. 5 m2 g−1 at λ = 400 nm, comparable to strongly absorbing brown carbon emitted from biomass burning. The chemical composition of SOA was examined with several mass spectrometry methods. Direct analysis in real-time mass spectrometry (DART-MS) and nanospray desorption electrospray high-resolution mass spectrometry (nano-DESI-HRMS) were both used to provide information about the overall distribution of SOA compounds. High-performance liquid chromatography, coupled to photodiode array spectrophotometry and high-resolution mass spectrometry (HPLC-PDA-HRMS), was used to identify chromophoric compounds that are responsible for the brown colour of SOA. Indole derivatives, such as tryptanthrin, indirubin, indigo dye, and indoxyl red, were found to contribute significantly to the visible absorption spectrum of indole SOA. The potential effect of indole SOA on air quality was explored with an airshed model, which found elevated concentrations of indole SOA during the afternoon hours contributing considerably to the total organic aerosol under selected scenarios. Because of its high MAC values, indole SOA can contribute to decreased visibility and poor air quality.