Evaporation kinetics and phase of laboratory and ambient secondary organic aerosol

Timothy D. Vaden, Dan Imre, Josef Beránek, Manish Shrivastava, Alla Zelenyuk

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292 Scopus citations


Field measurements of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) find significantly higher mass loads than predicted by models, sparking intense effort focused on finding additional SOA sources but leaving the fundamental assumptions used by models unchallenged. Current air-quality models use absorptive partitioning theory assuming SOA particles are liquid droplets, forming instantaneous reversible equilibrium with gas phase. Further, they ignore the effects of adsorption of spectator organic species during SOA formation on SOA properties and fate. Using accurate and highly sensitive experimental approach for studying evaporation kinetics of size-selected single SOA particles, we characterized room-temperature evaporation kinetics of laboratory-generated α-pinene SOA and ambient atmospheric SOA. We found that even when gas phase organics are removed, it takes ∼24 h for pure α-pinene SOA particles to evaporate 75% of their mass, which is in sharp contrast to the ∼10 min time scale predicted by current kinetic models. Adsorption of "spectator" organic vapors during SOA formation, and aging of these coated SOA particles, dramatically reduced the evaporation rate, and in some cases nearly stopped it. Ambient SOA was found to exhibit evaporation behavior very similar to that of laboratory-generated coated and aged SOA. For all cases studied in this work, SOA evaporation behavior is nearly size-independent and does not follow the evaporation kinetics of liquid droplets, in sharp contrast with model assumptions. The findings about SOA phase, evaporation rates, and the importance of spectator gases and aging all indicate that there is need to reformulate the way SOA formation and evaporation are treated by models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2190-2195
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 8 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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