Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Key role of organic carbon in the sunlight-enhanced atmospheric aging of soot by O2.

PMID 23236134


Soot particles are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and have important climatic and health effects. The aging processes of soot during long-range transport result in variability in its morphology, microstructure, and hygroscopic and optical properties, subsequently leading to the modification of soot's climatic and health effects. In the present study the aging process of soot by molecular O(2) under simulated sunlight irradiation is investigated. Organic carbon components on the surface of soot are found to play a key role in soot aging and are transformed into oxygen-containing organic species including quinones, ketones, aldehydes, lactones, and anhydrides. These oxygen-containing species may become adsorption centers of water and thus enhance the cloud condensation nuclei and ice nuclei activities of soot. Under irradiation of 25 mW·cm(-2), the apparent rate constants (k(1,obs)) for loss or formation of species on soot aged by 20% O(2) were larger by factors of 1.5-3.5 than those on soot aged by 100 ppb O(3). Considering the abundance of O(2) in the troposphere and its higher photoreactivity rate, the photochemical oxidation by O(2) under sunlight irradiation should be a very important aging process for soot.