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Temperature effects on multiphase reactions of organic molecular markers: A modeling study

Pratap, Vikram, Chen, Ying, Yao, Guangming, Nakao, Shunsuke
Atmospheric environment 2018 v.179 pp. 40-48
aerosols, atmospheric chemistry, biomass, burning, combustion, diffusivity, gases, genetic markers, models, relative humidity, summer, temperature, viscosity, winter, wood
Various molecular markers are used in source apportionment studies. In early studies, molecular markers were assumed to be inert. However, recent studies suggest that molecular markers can decay rapidly through multiphase reactions, which makes interpretation of marker measurements challenging. This study presents a simplified model to account for the effects of temperature and relative humidity on the lifetime of molecular markers through a shift in gas-particle partitioning as well as a change in viscosity of the condensed phase. As a model case, this study examines the stability of levoglucosan, a key marker species of biomass burning, over a wide temperature range relevant to summertime and wintertime. Despite the importance of wood combustion for space heating in winter, the lifetime of levoglucosan in wintertime is not well understood. The model predicts that in low-temperature conditions, levoglucosan predominantly remains in the particle phase, and therefore its loss due to gas-phase oxidation reactions is significantly reduced. Furthermore, the movement of the levoglucosan from the bulk of the particle to the particle surface is reduced due to low diffusivity in the semi-solid state. The simplified model developed in this study reasonably reproduces upper and lower bounds of the lifetime of levoglucosan investigated in previous studies. The model results show that the levoglucosan depletion after seven days reduces significantly from ∼98% at 25 °C to <1% at 0 °C under dry conditions. The depletion of levoglucosan increases at higher relative humidities. However, at temperatures below 0 °C, levoglucosan appears to be a useful marker (lifetime > 1 week) even at 60% relative humidity irrespective of the assumed fragility parameter D that controls estimated diffusivity. The model shows that lifetime of an organic molecular marker strongly depends on assumed D especially when a semi-volatile marker is in semi-solid organic aerosol.