Environmental science & technology

Accretion reactions of octanal catalyzed by sulfuric acid: product identification, reaction pathways, and atmospheric implications.

PMID 18939538


Atmospheric accretion reactions of octanal with sulfuric acid as a catalyst were investigated in bulk liquid-liquid experiments and gas-particle experiments. In bulk studies, trioxane, alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehyde, and trialkyl benzene were identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry as major reaction products with increasing sulfuric acid concentrations (0-86 wt%). Cyclotrimerization and one or multiple steps of aldol condensation are proposed as possible accretion reaction pathways. High molecular weight (up to 700 Da) oligomers were also observed by electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry in reactions under extremely high acid concentration conditions (86 wt%). Gas-particle experiments using a reaction cell were carried out using both high (approximately 20 ppmv) and low (approximately 900 ppbv) gas-phase octanal concentrations under a wide range of relative humidity (RH, from < 1% to 50%, corresponding to > 80 wt% to 43 wt% H2SO4) and long reaction durations (24 h). One or multiple steps of aldol condensation occurred under low RH (< 1% and 10%, > 80 wt% and 64 wt% H2SO4, respectively) and high octanal concentration (approximately 20 ppmv) conditions. No cyclotrimerization was observed in the gas-particle experiments even under RH conditions corresponding to similar sulfuric acid concentration conditions that favor cyclotrimerization in bulk studies. No accretion reaction product was found in the low octanal concentration (approximately 900 ppbv) experiments, which indicates that the accretion reactions are not significant as expected when the gas-phase octanal concentration is low. A kinetic analysis of the first-step aldol condensation product was performed to understand the discrepancies between the bulk and gas-particle experiments and between the high and low octanal concentrations in the gas-particle experiments. The comparisons between experimental results and kinetic estimations suggest that caution should be exercised in the extrapolation of laboratory experiment results to ambient conditions.

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