Effect of relative humidity on the composition of secondary organic aerosol from the oxidation of toluene
Published Web Locationhttps://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/18/1643/2018/acp-18-1643-2018.pdf
The effect of relative humidity (RH) on the chemical composition of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formed from low-NOx toluene oxidation in the absence of seed particles was investigated. SOA samples were prepared in an aerosol smog chamber at >2%RH and 75%RH, collected on Teflon filters, and analyzed with nanospray desorption electrospray ionization high-resolution mass spectrometry (nano-DESI-HRMS). Measurements revealed a significant reduction in the fraction of oligomers present in the SOA generated at 75%RH compared to SOA generated under dry conditions. In a separate set of experiments, the particle mass concentrations were measured with a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) at RHs ranging from >2 to 90 %. It was found that the particle mass loading decreased by nearly an order of magnitude when RH increased from >2 to 75-90% for low-NOx toluene SOA. The volatility distributions of the SOA compounds, estimated from the distribution of molecular formulas using the "molecular corridor" approach, confirmed that low-NOx toluene SOA became more volatile on average under high-RH conditions. In contrast, the effect of RH on SOA mass loading was found to be much smaller for high-NOx toluene SOA. The observed increase in the oligomer fraction and particle mass loading under dry conditions were attributed to the enhancement of condensation reactions, which produce water and oligomers from smaller compounds in low-NOx toluene SOA. The reduction in the fraction of oligomeric compounds under humid conditions is predicted to partly counteract the previously observed enhancement in the toluene SOA yield driven by the aerosol liquid water chemistry in deliquesced inorganic seed particles.