Investigating the use of secondary organic aerosol as seed particles in simulation chamber experiments

J.F. Hamilton, M.R. Alfarra, Kevin Wyche, M.W. Ward, A.C. Lewis, G.B. McFiggans, N. Good, P.S. Monks, T. Carr, I.R. White, R.M. Purvis

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The use of beta-caryophyllene secondary organic aerosol particles as seeds for smog chamber simulations has been investigated. A series of experiments were carried out in the Manchester photochemical chamber as part of the Aerosol Coupling in the Earth System (ACES) project to study the effect of seed particles on the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) from limonene photooxidation. Rather than use a conventional seed aerosol containing ammonium sulfate or diesel particles, a method was developed to use in-situ chamber generated seed particles from beta-caryophyllene photo-oxidation, which were then diluted to a desired mass loading (in this case 4-13 mμ gm -3). Limonene was then introduced into the chamber and oxidised, with the formation of SOA seen as a growth in the size of oxidised organic seed particles from 150 to 325 nm mean diameter. The effect of the partitioning of limonene oxidation products onto the seed aerosol was assessed using aerosol mass spectrometry during the experiment and the percentage of m/z 44, an indicator of degree of oxidation, increased from around 5 to 8 %. The hygroscopicity of the aerosol also changed, with the growth factor for 200 nm particles increasing from less than 1.05 to 1.25 at 90% RH. The detailed chemical composition of the limonene SOA could be extracted from the complex beta-caryophyllene matrix using two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) and liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. High resolution Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (FTICR-MS) was used to determine exact molecular formulae of the seed and the limonene modified aerosol. The average O:C ratio was seen to increase from 0.32 to 0.37 after limonene oxidation products had condensed onto the organic seed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5917-5929
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


  • atmospheric science
  • secondary organic aerosol
  • particulate matter
  • biogenic
  • VOCs
  • oxidation
  • photochemistry


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