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Sources, optical properties, and chemical composition of atmospheric brown carbon (BrC) aerosol are uncertain, making it challenging to estimate its contribution to radiative forcing. Furthermore, optical properties of BrC may change significantly during its atmospheric aging. We examined the effect of photolysis on the molecular composition, mass absorption coefficient, and fluorescence of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) prepared by high-NOx photooxidation of naphthalene (NAP SOA). Our experiments were designed to model photolysis processes of NAP SOA compounds dissolved in cloud or fog droplets. Aqueous solutions of NAP SOA were observed to photobleach (i.e., lose their ability to absorb visible radiation) with an effective halflife of ∼15 h (with sun in its zenith) for the loss of near-UV (300-400 nm) absorbance. The molecular composition of NAP SOA was significantly modified by photolysis, with the average SOA formula changing from C14.1H14.5O5.1N0.085 to C11.8H14.9O4.5N0.023 after 4 h of irradiation. However, the average O/C ratio did not change significantly, suggesting that it is not a good metric for assessing the extent of photolysis-driven aging in NAP SOA (and in BrC in general). In contrast to NAP SOA, the photobleaching of BrC material produced by the reaction of limonene + ozone SOA with ammonia vapor (aged LIM/O3 SOA) was much faster, but it did not result in a significant change in molecular composition. The characteristic absorbance of the aged LIM/O3 SOA in the 450-600 nm range decayed with an effective half-life of < 0.5 h. This result emphasizes the highly variable and dynamic nature of different types of atmospheric BrC.
Lee, H. J., P. Aiona, A. Laskin, J. Laskin, & S. A. Nizkorodov (2014) Effect of Solar Radiation on the Optical Properties and Molecular Composition of Laboratory Proxies of Atmospheric Brown Carbon, Environ. Sci. Technol. (Accepted Manuscript).