Atmospheric Environment, 42(7):1476-1490, 2008. Paper abstract bibtex
Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is a substantial component of total atmospheric organic particulate matter, but little is known about the composition of SOA formed through cloud processing. We conducted aqueous phase photo-oxidation experiments of methylglyoxal and hydroxyl radical to simulate cloud processing. In addition to predicted organic acid monomers, oligomer formation from methylglyoxal-hydroxyl radical reactions was detected by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS). The chemical composition of the oligomers and the mechanism of their formation were investigated by ultra-high resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) and LCQ DUO ion trap mass spectrometry (ESI-MS-MS). Reaction products included 415 compounds detected in the mass range 245-800 Da and the elemental composition of all 415 compounds were determined by ultra-high resolution FT-ICR MS. The ratio of total organic molecular weight per organic carbon weight (OM:OC) of the oligomers (1.0-2.5) was lower than the OM:OC of the organic acid monomers (2.3-3.8) formed, suggesting that the oligomers are less hygroscopic than the organic acid monomers formed from methylglyoxal-hydroxyl radical reaction. The OM:OC of the oligomers (average=2.0) is consistent with that of aged atmospheric aerosols and atmospheric humic-like substances (HULIS). A mechanism is proposed in which the organic acid monomers formed through hydroxyl radical reactions oligomerize through esterification. The mechanism is supported by the existence of series of oligomers identified by elemental composition from FT-ICR MS and ion fragmentation patterns from ESI-MS-MS. Each oligomer series starts with an organic acid monomer formed from hydroxyl radical oxidation, and increases in molecular weight and total oxygen content through esterification with a hydroxy acid (C3H6O3) resulting in multiple additions of 72.02113 Da (C3H4O2) to the parent organic acid monomer. Methylglyoxal is a water-soluble product of both gas phase biogenic (i.e., isoprene) and anthropogenic (i.e., aromatics, alkenes) hydrocarbon oxidation. The varied and multiple sources of methylglyoxal increase the potential for these low volatility cloud processing products (e.g., oxalic acid and oligomers) to significantly contribute to SOA. Aqueous phase oligomer formation investigated here and aerosol phase oligomer formation appear to be more similar than previously realized, which may simplify the incorporation of oligomers into atmospheric SOA models. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.