Modelling the hygroscopic growth factors of aerosol material containing a large water-soluble organic fraction, collected at the Storm Peak Laboratory

Simon L. Clegg, Lynn R. Mazzoleni, Vera Samburova, Nathan F. Taylor, Don R. Collins, Simeon K. Schum, A. Gannet Hallar

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The compositions of six aggregated aerosol samples from the Storm Peak site have been comprehensively analysed (Hallar et al., 2013), focusing particularly on the large water-extractable organic fraction which consists of both high molecular weight organic compounds and a range of acids and sugar-alcohols. The contribution of the soluble organic fraction of atmospheric aerosols to their hygroscopicity is hard to quantify, largely because of the lack of a detailed knowledge of both composition and the thermodynamic properties of the functionally complex compounds and structures the fraction contains. In this work we: (i) develop a means of predicting the relative solubility of the compounds in the water-extractable organic material from the Storm Peak site, based upon what is known about their chemical composition; (ii) derive the probable soluble organic fraction from comparisons of model predictions with the measured hygroscopicity; (iii) test a model of the water uptake of the total aerosol (inorganic plus total water-extractable organic compounds). Using a novel UNIFAC-based method, different assignments of functional groups to the high molecular weight water soluble organic compounds (WSOC) were explored, together with their effects on calculated hygroscopic growth factors, constrained by the known molecular formulae and the double bond equivalents associated with each molecule. The possible group compositions were compared with the results of ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry measurements of the organic material, which suggest large numbers of alcohol (–OH) and acid (–COOH) groups. A hygroscopicity index (HI) was developed. The measured hygroscopic growth is found to be consistent with a dissolution of the WSOC material that varies approximately linearly with RH, such that the dissolved fraction is about 0.45–0.85 at 90% relative humidity when ordering by HI, depending on the assumptions made. This relationship, if it also applies to other types of organic aerosol material, provides a simple approach to calculating both water uptake and CCN activity (and the κ parameter for hygroscopic growth). The hygroscopicity of the total aerosol was modelled using a modified Zdanovskii-Stokes-Robinson approach as the sum of that of the three analysed fractions: inorganic ions (predicted), individual organic acids and “sugar alcohols” (predicted), and the high molecular weight WSOC fraction (measured). The calculated growth factors broadly agree with the measurements, and validate the approach taken. The insights into the dissolution of the organic material seem likely to apply to other largely biogenic aerosols from similar remote locations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116760
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Early online date30 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

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