Aqueous phase processing of secondary organic aerosol from isoprene photooxidation
Transport of reactive air masses into humid and wet areas is highly frequent in the atmosphere, making the study of aqueous phase processing of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) very relevant. We have investigated the aqueous phase processing of SOA generated from gas-phase photooxidation of isoprene using a smog chamber. The SOA collected on filters was extracted by water and subsequently oxidized in the aqueous phase either by H2O2 under dark conditions or by OH radicals in the presence of light, using a photochemical reactor. Online and offline analytical techniques including SMPS, HR-AMS, H-TDMA, TD-API-AMS, were employed for physical and chemical characterization of the chamber SOA and nebulized filter extracts. After aqueous phase processing, the particles were significantly more hygroscopic, and HR-AMS data showed higher signal intensity at m/z 44 and a lower signal intensity at m/z 43, thus showing the impact of aqueous phase processing on SOA aging, in good agreement with a few previous studies. Additional offline measurement techniques (IC-MS, APCI-MS2 and HPLC-APCI-MS) permitted the identification and quantification of sixteen individual chemical compounds before and after aqueous phase processing. Among these compounds, small organic acids (including formic, glyoxylic, glycolic, butyric, oxalic and 2,3-dihydroxymethacrylic acid (i.e. 2-methylglyceric acid)) were detected, and their concentrations significantly increased after aqueous phase processing. In particular, the aqueous phase formation of 2-methylglyceric acid and trihydroxy-3-methylbutanal was correlated with the consumption of 2,3-dihydroxy-2-methyl-propanal, and 2-methylbutane-1,2,3,4-tetrol, respectively, and an aqueous phase mechanism was proposed accordingly. Overall, the aging effect observed here was rather small compared to previous studies, and this limited effect could possibly be explained by the lower liquid phase OH concentrations employed here, and/or the development of oligomers observed during aqueous phase processing.