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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evolution of organic aerosol mass spectra upon heating: implications for OA phase and partitioning behavior


Vacuum Ultraviolet (VUV) photoionization mass spectrometry has been used to measure the evolution of chemical composition for two distinct organic aerosol types as they are passed through a thermodenuder at different temperatures. The two organic aerosol types considered are primary lubricating oil (LO) aerosol and secondary aerosol from the alpha-pinene + O3 reaction (alphaP). The evolution of the VUV mass spectra for the two aerosol types with temperature are observed to differ dramatically. For LO particles, the spectra exhibit distinct changes with temperature in which the lower m/z peaks, corresponding to compounds with higher vapor pressures, disappear more rapidly than the high m/z peaks. In contrast, the alphaP aerosol spectrum is essentially unchanged by temperature even though the particles experience significant mass loss due to evaporation. The variations in the LO spectra are found to be quantitatively in agreement with expectations from absorptive partitioning theory whereas the alphaP spectra suggest that the evaporation of alphaP derived aerosol appears to not be governed by partitioning theory. We postulate that this difference arises from the alphaP particles existing as in a glassy state instead of having the expected liquid-like behavior. To reconcile these observations with decades of aerosol growth measurements, which indicate that OA formation is described by equilibrium partitioning, we present a conceptual model wherein the secondary OA is formed and then rapidly converted from an absorbing form to a non-absorbing form. The results suggest that although OA growth may be describable by equilibrium partitioning theory, the properties of organic aerosol once formed may differ significantly from the properties determined in the equilibrium framework.

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