Properties of secondary organic aerosol in the ambient atmosphere: sources, formation, and partitioning
Hennigan, Christopher James
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This thesis characterizes properties of ambient secondary organic aerosol (SOA), an important and abundant component of particulate matter. The findings presented in this thesis are significant because they represent the results from ambient measurements, which are relatively scarce, and because they report on properties of SOA that, until now, were highly uncertain. The analyses utilized the fraction of particulate organic carbon that was soluble in water (WSOCp) to approximate SOA concentrations in two largely different urban environments, Mexico City and Atlanta. In Mexico City, measurements of atmospheric gases and fine particle chemistry were made at a site ~ 30 km down wind of the city center. Using box model analyses and a comparison to ammonium nitrate aerosol, a species whose thermodynamic properties are generally understood, the morning formation and mid-day evaporation of SOA are investigated. In Atlanta, simultaneous measurements of WSOCp and water-soluble organic carbon in the gas phase (WSOCg) were carried out for an entire summer to investigate the sources and partitioning of WSOC. The results suggest that both WSOCp and WSOCg were secondary and biogenic, except possibly in several strong biomass burning events. The gas/particle partitioning of WSOC in Atlanta was investigated through the parameter, Fp, which represented the fraction of WSOC in the particle phase. Factors that appear to influence WSOC partitioning in Atlanta include ambient relative humidity and the WSOCp mass concentration. There was also a relationship between the NOx concentration and Fp, though this was not likely related to the partitioning process. Temperature did not appear to impact Fp, though this may have been due to positive relationships WSOCp and WSOCg each exhibited with temperature. Neither the total Organic Carbon aerosol mass concentration nor the ozone concentration impacted WSOC partitioning.