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Issue 2, 2003
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The heterogeneous hydrolysis of NO2 in laboratory systems and in outdoor and indoor atmospheres: An integrated mechanism

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The heterogeneous reaction of NO2 with water on the surface of laboratory systems has been known for decades to generate HONO, a major source of OH that drives the formation of ozone and other air pollutants in urban areas and possibly in snowpacks. Previous studies have shown that the reaction is first order in NO2 and in water vapor, and the formation of a complex between NO2 and water at the air–water interface has been hypothesized as being the key step in the mechanism. We report data from long path FTIR studies in borosilicate glass reaction chambers of the loss of gaseous NO2 and the formation of the products HONO, NO and N2O. Further FTIR studies were carried out to measure species generated on the surface during the reaction, including HNO3, N2O4 and NO2+. We propose a new reaction mechanism in which we hypothesize that the symmetric form of the NO2 dimer, N2O4, is taken up on the surface and isomerizes to the asymmetric form, ONONO2. The latter autoionizes to NO+NO3, and it is this intermediate that reacts with water to generate HONO and surface-adsorbed HNO3. Nitric oxide is then generated by secondary reactions of HONO on the highly acidic surface. This new mechanism is discussed in the context of our experimental data and those of previous studies, as well as the chemistry of such intermediates as NO+ and NO2+ that is known to occur in solution. Implications for the formation of HONO both outdoors and indoors in real and simulated polluted atmospheres, as well as on airborne particles and in snowpacks, are discussed. A key aspect of this chemistry is that in the atmospheric boundary layer where human exposure occurs and many measurements of HONO and related atmospheric constituents such as ozone are made, a major substrate for this heterogeneous chemistry is the surface of buildings, roads, soils, vegetation and other materials. This area of reactions in thin films on surfaces (SURFACE = Surfaces, Urban and Remote: Films As a Chemical Environment) has received relatively little attention compared to reactions in the gas and liquid phases, but in fact may be quite important in the chemistry of the boundary layer in urban areas.

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Publication details

The article was received on 02 Sep 2002, accepted on 02 Dec 2002 and first published on 16 Dec 2002

Article type: Invited Article
DOI: 10.1039/B208564J
Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2003,5, 223-242

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    The heterogeneous hydrolysis of NO2 in laboratory systems and in outdoor and indoor atmospheres: An integrated mechanism

    B. J. Finlayson-Pitts, L. M. Wingen, A. L. Sumner, D. Syomin and K. A. Ramazan, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2003, 5, 223
    DOI: 10.1039/B208564J

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