Articles | Volume 8, issue 17
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 8, 5127–5141, 2008
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 8, 5127–5141, 2008

  02 Sep 2008

02 Sep 2008

The effect of fatty acid surfactants on the uptake of nitric acid to deliquesced NaCl aerosol

K. Stemmler1, A. Vlasenko1,*, C. Guimbaud1,**, and M. Ammann1 K. Stemmler et al.
  • 1Laboratory of Radio- and Environmental Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen, Switzerland
  • *now at: Department of Chemistry and Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research, University of Toronto, 80 St. George Street, Toronto M5S 3H6, Ontario, Canada
  • **now at: Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l'Environnement, CNRS, Université d'Orléans 45071 Orléans Cedex 2, France

Abstract. Surface active organic compounds have been observed in marine boundary layer aerosol. Here, we investigate the effect such surfactants have on the uptake of nitric acid (HNO3), an important removal reaction of nitrogen oxides in the marine boundary layer. The uptake of gaseous HNO3 on deliquesced NaCl aerosol was measured in a flow reactor using HNO3 labelled with the short-lived radioactive isotope 13N. The uptake coefficient γ on pure deliquesced NaCl aerosol was γ=0.5±0.2 at 60% relative humidity and 30 ppb HNO3(g). The uptake coefficient was reduced by a factor of 5–50 when the aerosol was coated with saturated linear fatty acids with carbon chain lengths of 18 and 15 atoms in monolayer quantities. In contrast, neither shorter saturated linear fatty acids with 12 and 9 carbon atoms, nor coatings with the unsaturated oleic acid (C18, cis-double bond) had a detectable effect on the rate of HNO3 uptake. It is concluded that it is the structure of the monolayers formed, which determines their resistance towards HNO3 uptake. Fatty acids (C18 and C15), which form a highly ordered film in the so-called liquid condensed state, represent a significant barrier towards HNO3 uptake, while monolayers of shorter-chain fatty acids (C9, C12) and of the unsaturated oleic acid form a less ordered film in the liquid expanded state and do not hinder the uptake. Similarly, high contents of humic acids in the aerosol, a structurally inhomogeneous, quite water soluble mixture of oxidised high molecular weight organic compounds did not affect HNO3 uptake. As surfactant films on naturally occurring aerosol are expected to be less structured due to their chemical inhomogeneity, it is likely that their inhibitory effect on HNO3 uptake is smaller than that observed here for the C15 and C18 fatty acid monolayers.

Final-revised paper