Formation of environmentally persistent free radicals from the heterogeneous reaction of ozone and polycyclic aromatic compounds
In the 1980s long-lived radical species were identified in cigarette tar. Since then, environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) have been observed in ambient particulate matter, and have been generated in particulate matter generated from internal combustion engines. For the first time, we measure in situ the formation and decay of EPFRs through the heterogeneous reaction of ozone and several polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAC). Solid anthracene (ANT), pyrene (PY), benzo[a]pyrene (BAP), benzo[ghi]perylene (BGHIP), 1,4-naphthoquinone (1,4NQ), and 9,10-anthraquinone (AQ) were reacted with gas-phase ozone in a flow system placed in the active cavity of an electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrometer, and the formation of radicals was measured on the timescale of tens of minutes at ambient levels of ozone down to 30 ppb. For most substrates the net radical production is initially rapid, slows at intermediate times, and is followed by a slow decay. For oxidized solid BAP, radical signal persists for many days in the absence of ozone. To evaluate the effect of substrate phase, the solid PAHs were also dissolved in squalane, an organic oil inert to ozone, which yielded a much higher maximum radical concentration and faster radical decay when exposed to ozone. With higher mobility, reactants were apparently able to more easily diffuse and react with each other, yielding the higher radical concentrations. The EPR spectra exhibit three radicals types, two of which have been assigned to semiquinone species and one to a PAH-derived, carbon-centered radical. Although our system uses levels of PAC not typically found in the environment it is worth noting that the amounts of radical formed, on the order of 1018 radicals per g, are comparable to those observed in ambient particulate matter.