Articles | Volume 17, issue 5
Research article
15 Mar 2017
Research article |  | 15 Mar 2017

Volatility of mixed atmospheric humic-like substances and ammonium sulfate particles

Wei Nie, Juan Hong, Silja A. K. Häme, Aijun Ding, Yugen Li, Chao Yan, Liqing Hao, Jyri Mikkilä, Longfei Zheng, Yuning Xie, Caijun Zhu, Zheng Xu, Xuguang Chi, Xin Huang, Yang Zhou, Peng Lin, Annele Virtanen, Douglas R. Worsnop, Markku Kulmala, Mikael Ehn, Jianzhen Yu, Veli-Matti Kerminen, and Tuukka Petäjä

Abstract. The volatility of organic aerosols remains poorly understood due to the complexity of speciation and multiphase processes. In this study, we extracted humic-like substances (HULIS) from four atmospheric aerosol samples collected at the SORPES station in Nanjing, eastern China, and investigated the volatility behavior of particles at different sizes using a Volatility Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer (VTDMA). In spite of the large differences in particle mass concentrations, the extracted HULIS from the four samples all revealed very high-oxidation states (O : C > 0.95), indicating secondary formation as the major source of HULIS in Yangtze River Delta (YRD). An overall low volatility was identified for the extracted HULIS, with the volume fraction remaining (VFR) higher than 55 % for all the regenerated HULIS particles at the temperature of 280 °C. A kinetic mass transfer model was applied to the thermodenuder (TD) data to interpret the observed evaporation pattern of HULIS, and to derive the mass fractions of semi-volatile (SVOC), low-volatility (LVOC) and extremely low-volatility components (ELVOC). The results showed that LVOC and ELVOC dominated (more than 80 %) the total volume of HULIS. Atomizing processes led to a size-dependent evaporation of regenerated HULIS particles, and resulted in more ELVOC in smaller particles. In order to understand the role of interaction between inorganic salts and atmospheric organic mixtures in the volatility of an organic aerosol, the evaporation of mixed samples of ammonium sulfate (AS) and HULIS was measured. The results showed a significant but nonlinear influence of ammonium sulfate on the volatility of HULIS. The estimated fraction of ELVOC in the organic part of the largest particles (145 nm) increased from 26 %, in pure HULIS samples, to 93 % in 1 : 3 (mass ratio of HULIS : AS) mixed samples, to 45 % in 2 : 2 mixed samples, and to 70 % in 3 : 1 mixed samples, suggesting that the interaction with ammonium sulfate tends to decrease the volatility of atmospheric organic compounds. Our results demonstrate that HULIS are important low-volatility, or even extremely low-volatility, compounds in the organic-aerosol phase. As important formation pathways of atmospheric HULIS, multiphase processes, including oxidation, oligomerization, polymerization and interaction with inorganic salts, are indicated to be important sources of low-volatility and extremely low-volatility species of organic aerosols.

Short summary
HULIS are demonstrated to be important low-volatility, or even extremely low volatility, compounds in the organic aerosol phase. This sheds new light on the connection between atmospheric HULIS and ELVOCs. The interaction between HULIS and ammonium sulfate was found to decrease the volatility of the HULIS part in HULIS-AS mixed samples, indicating multiphase processes have the potential to lower the volatility of organic compounds in the aerosol phase.
Final-revised paper