Exploring the composition and volatility of secondary organic aerosols in mixed anthropogenic and biogenic precursor systems

Aristeidis Voliotis, Yu Wang, Yunqi Shao, Mao Du, Thomas Bannan, Carl Percival, S. N. Pandis, M. R. Alfarra, Gordon McFiggans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from mixtures ofvolatile precursors may be influenced by the molecular interactions of thecomponents of the mixture. Here, we report measurements of the volatilitydistribution of SOA formed from the photo-oxidation of o-cresol, α-pinene, and their mixtures, representative anthropogenic and biogenic precursors, in an atmospheric simulation chamber. The combination of twoindependent thermal techniques (thermal denuder, TD, and the Filter Inlet for Gases and Aerosols coupled to a high-resolution time-of-flight chemical ionization mass spectrometer, FIGAERO-CIMS) to measure the particle volatility, along with detailed gas- and particle-phase composition measurements, provides links between the chemical composition of the mixtureand the resultant SOA particle volatility. The SOA particle volatilityobtained by the two independent techniques showed substantial discrepancies.The particle volatility obtained by the TD was wider, spanning across theLVOC and SVOC range, while the respective FIGAERO-CIMS derived using two different methods (i.e. calibrated Tmax and partitioning calculations) was substantially higher (mainly in the SVOC and IVOC,respectively) and narrow. Although the quantification of the SOA particlevolatility was challenging, both techniques and methods showed similartrends, with the volatility of the SOA formed from the photo-oxidation ofα-pinene being higher than that measured in the o-cresol system, while the volatility of the SOA particles of the mixture was between those measured atthe single-precursor systems. This behaviour could be explained by two opposite effects, the scavenging of the larger molecules with lowervolatility produced in the single-precursor experiments that led to an increase in the average volatility and the formation of unique-to-the-mixture products that had higher O:C, MW, OSc‾and, consequently, lower volatility compared to those derived from the individual precursors. We further discuss the potential limitations ofFIGAERO-CIMS to report quantitative volatilities and their implications for the reported results, and we show that the particle volatility changes can be qualitatively assessed, while caution should be taken when linking thechemical composition to the particle volatility. These results present thefirst detailed observations of SOA particle volatility and composition inmixed anthropogenic and biogenic systems and provide an analytical contextthat can be used to explore particle volatility in chamber experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14251–14273
Number of pages23
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2021


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