Radical mechanisms of methyl vinyl ketone oligomerization through aqueous phase OH-oxidation: On the paradoxical role of dissolved molecular oxygen
It is now accepted that one of the important pathways of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation occurs through aqueous phase chemistry in the atmosphere. However, the chemical mechanisms leading to macromolecules are still not well understood. It was recently shown that oligomer production by OH radical oxidation in the aerosol aqueous phase from alpha-dicarbonyl precursors, such as methylglyoxal and glyoxal, is irreversible and fast. Methyl vinyl ketone (MVK) was chosen in the present study as it is an alpha,beta-unsaturated carbonyl that can undergo radical oligomerization in the aerosol aqueous phase. We present here experiments on the aqueous phase OH-oxidation of MVK, performed under various conditions. Using NMR and UV absorption spectroscopy, high and ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry, we show that the fast formation of oligomers up to 1800 Da is due to radical oligomerization of MVK, and 13 series of oligomers (out of a total of 26 series) are identified. The influence of atmospherically relevant parameters such as temperature, initial concentrations of MVK and dissolved oxygen are presented and discussed. In agreement with the experimental observations, we propose a chemical mechanism of OH-oxidation of MVK in the aqueous phase that proceeds via radical oligomerization of MVK on the olefin part of the molecule. This mechanism highlights in our experiments the paradoxical role of dissolved O-2: while it inhibits oligomerization reactions, it contributes to produce oligomerization initiator radicals, which rapidly consume O-2, thus leading to the dominance of oligomerization reactions after several minutes of reaction. These processes, together with the large range of initial concentrations investigated show the fundamental role that radical oligomerization processes likely play in polluted fogs and atmospheric aerosol.