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Nucleation of soot: Experimental assessment of the role of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) dimers

Abstract

The irreversible dimerization of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)-typically pyrene (C16H10) dimerization-is widely used in combustion chemistry models to describe the soot particle inception step. This paper concerns itself with the detection and identification of dimers of flame-synthesized PAH radicals and closed-shell molecules and an experimental assessment of the role of these PAH dimers for the nucleation of soot. To this end, flame-generated species were extracted from an inverse co-flow flame of ethylene at atmospheric pressure and immediately diluted with excess nitrogen before the mixture was analyzed using flame-sampling tandem mass spectrometry with collision-induced fragmentation. Signal at m/z = 404.157 (C32H20) and m/z = 452.157 (C36H20) were detected and identified as dimers of closed-shell C16H10 and C18H10 monomers, respectively. A complex between a C13H9 radical and a C24H12 closed-shell PAH was observed at m/z = 465.164 (C37H21). However, a rigorous analysis of the flame-sampled mass spectra as a function of the dilution ratio, defined as the ratio of the flow rates of the diluent nitrogen to the sampled gases, indicates that the observed dimers are not flame-born, but are produced in the sampling line. In agreement with theoretical considerations, this paper provides experimental evidence that pyrene dimers cannot be a key intermediate in particle inception at elevated flame temperatures.

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