Understanding interactions of organic nitrates with the surface and bulk of organic films: implications for particle growth in the atmosphere†
Understanding impacts of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) in air requires a molecular-level understanding of particle growth via interactions between gases and particle surfaces. The interactions of three gaseous organic nitrates with selected organic substrates were measured at 296 K using attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The organic substrates included a long chain alkane (triacontane, TC), a keto-acid (pinonic acid, PA), an amorphous ester oligomer (poly(ethylene adipate) di-hydroxy terminated, PEA), and laboratory-generated SOA from α-pinene ozonolysis. There was no uptake of the organic nitrates on the non-polar TC substrate, but significant uptake occurred on PEA, PA, and α-pinene SOA. Net uptake coefficients (γ) at the shortest reaction times accessible in these experiments ranged from 3 × 10−4 to 9 × 10−6 and partition coefficients (K) from 1 × 107 to 9 × 104. Trends in γ did not quantitatively follow trends in K, suggesting that the intermolecular forces involved in gas–surface interactions are not the same as those in the bulk, which is supported by theoretical calculations. Kinetic modeling showed that nitrates diffused throughout the organic films over several minutes, and that the bulk diffusion coefficients evolved as uptake/desorption occurred. A plasticizing effect occurred upon incorporation of the organic nitrates, whereas desorption caused decreases in diffusion coefficients in the upper layers, suggesting a crusting effect. Accurate predictions of particle growth in the atmosphere will require knowledge of uptake coefficients, which are likely to be several orders of magnitude less than one, and of the intermolecular interactions of gases with particle surfaces as well as with the particle bulk.