Effect of aromatic ring substituents on the ability of catechol to produce brown carbon in iron(iii)-catalyzed reactions†
Our previous work demonstrated formation of highly insoluble and strongly light-absorbing organic particles in reactions between catechol or guaiacol with Fe(III) under pH = 3 conditions characteristic of aerosol liquid water. This work extends these measurements to reactions of Fe(III) with 2,4-dinitrophenol, 4-nitrocatechol, 4-methylcatechol, 1,2,4-benzenetriol, 1,2,3-benzenetriol (pyrogallol) and coniferaldehyde to better understand the mechanism of particle formation catalyzed by Fe(III). Particles were observed after 2 h of reactions of catechol (43 ± 1% mass yield), 1,2,4-benzenetriol (32 ± 3%), pyrogallol (27 ± 2%) and coniferaldehyde (35 ± 4%), while reactions of 2,4-dinitrophenol and 4-nitrocatechol did not produce any insoluble products. No particles were observed in reaction of 4-methylcatechol after 2 h, however, insoluble products appeared after a 24 h reaction time. Irradiation of a catechol + Fe(III) mixture by 405 nm light was found to reduce (but not fully suppress) the particle yield due to a competition between photodegradation and Fe(III)-catalyzed oligomerization. Particles produced from precursors + Fe(III) solutions were dissolved in organic solvents and analyzed with ultra performance liquid chromatography coupled to a photodiode array spectrophotometer and a high resolution mass spectrometer. Major separated chromophores were identified as dimeric, trimeric, and tetrameric products of precursor molecules. Purpurogallin was identified as a major reaction product of pyrogallol reaction with Fe(III). To test whether this chemistry can occur in more realistic atmospheric aerosols, reactions of biomass burning organic aerosol (BBOA) extracts with Fe(III) were also examined. Two BBOA samples collected under flaming conditions produced no particles, whereas a BBOA sample produced under smoldering conditions resulted in particle formation under both dark and 405 nm irradiation conditions. The results suggest that Fe(III)-catalyzed chemistry can take place in aging BBOA plumes resulting from smoldering fires and make aerosol particles more light-absorbing.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Celebrating Environmental Science: Atmospheres’ First Year