Volume 165, 2013

Kinetic limitations in gas-particle reactions arising from slow diffusion in secondary organic aerosol


The potential for aerosol physical properties, such as phase, morphology and viscosity/diffusivity, to affect particle reactivity remains highly uncertain. We report here a study of the effect of bulk diffusivity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in secondary organic aerosol (SOA) on the kinetics of the heterogeneous reaction of particle-borne benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) with ozone. The experiments were performed by coating BaP-ammonium sulfate particles with multilayers of SOA formed from ozonolysis of α-pinene, and by subsequently investigating the kinetics of BaP loss via reaction with excess ozone using an aerosol flow tube coupled to an Aerodyne Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS). All reactions exhibit pseudo-first order kinetics and are empirically well described by a Langmuir–Hinshelwood (L-H) mechanism. The results show that under dry conditions (RH < 5%) diffusion through the SOA coating can lead to significant mass transfer constraints on the kinetics, with behavior between that previously observed by our group for solid and liquid organic coats. The reactivity of BaP was enhanced at ∼50% relative humidity (RH) suggesting that water uptake lowers the viscosity of the SOA, hence lifting the mass transfer constraint to some degree. The kinetics for ∼70% RH were similar to results obtained without SOA coats, indicating that the SOA had sufficiently low viscosity and was sufficiently liquid-like that reactants could rapidly diffuse through the coat. A kinetic multi-layer model for aerosol surface and bulk chemistry was applied to simulate the kinetics, yielding estimates for the diffusion coefficients (in cm2 s−1) for BaP in α-pinene SOA of 2 × 10−14, 8 × 10−14 and >1 × 10−12 for dry (RH < 5%), 50% RH and 70% RH conditions, respectively. These results clearly indicate that slow diffusion of reactants through SOA coats under specific conditions can provide shielding from gas-phase oxidants, enabling the long-range atmospheric transport of toxic trace species, such as PAHs and persistent organic pollutants.

Article information

Article type
08 Mar 2013
16 May 2013
First published
17 May 2013
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Faraday Discuss., 2013,165, 391-406

Kinetic limitations in gas-particle reactions arising from slow diffusion in secondary organic aerosol

S. Zhou, M. Shiraiwa, R. D. McWhinney, U. Pöschl and J. P. D. Abbatt, Faraday Discuss., 2013, 165, 391 DOI: 10.1039/C3FD00030C

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