Laboratory investigation of photochemical oxidation of organic aerosol from wood fires 1: measurement and simulation of organic aerosol evolution
- Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Abstract. Experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of photo-oxidation on organic aerosol (OA) emissions from flaming and smoldering hard- and soft-wood fires under plume-like conditions. This was done by exposing the dilute emissions from a small wood stove to UV light in a smog chamber and measuring the gas- and particle-phase pollutant concentrations with a suite of instruments including a Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometer (PTR-MS), an Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS) and a thermodenuder. The measurements highlight how atmospheric processing can lead to considerable evolution of the mass and volatility of biomass-burning OA. Photochemical oxidation produced substantial new OA, increasing concentrations by a factor of 1.5 to 2.8 after several hours of exposure to typical summertime hydroxyl radical (OH) concentrations. Less than 20% of this new OA could be explained using a state-of-the-art secondary organic aerosol model and the measured decay of traditional SOA precursors. The thermodenuder data indicate that the primary OA is semivolatile; at 50°C between 50 and 80% of the fresh primary OA evaporated. Aging reduced the volatility of the OA; at 50°C only 20 to 40% of aged OA evaporated. The predictions of a volatility basis-set model that explicitly tracks the partitioning and aging of low-volatility organics was compared to the chamber data. The OA production can be explained by the oxidation of low-volatility organic vapors; the model can also reproduce observed changes in OA volatility and composition. The model was used to investigate the competition between photochemical processing and dilution on OA concentrations in plumes.