Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Research article
04 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 04 Jun 2015

Inter-comparison of laboratory smog chamber and flow reactor systems on organic aerosol yield and composition

E. A. Bruns, I. El Haddad, A. Keller, F. Klein, N. K. Kumar, S. M. Pieber, J. C. Corbin, J. G. Slowik, W. H. Brune, U. Baltensperger, and A. S. H. Prévôt

Abstract. A variety of tools are used to simulate atmospheric aging, including smog chambers and flow reactors. Traditional, large-scale smog chambers age emissions over the course of hours to days, whereas flow reactors rapidly age emissions using high oxidant concentrations to reach higher degrees of oxygenation than typically attained in smog chamber experiments. The atmospheric relevance of the products generated under such rapid oxidation warrants further study. However, no previously published studies have compared the yields and chemical composition of products generated in flow reactors and smog chambers from the same starting mixture.

The yields and composition of the organic aerosol formed from the photo-oxidation of α-pinene and of wood-combustion emissions in a smog chamber (SC) and two flow reactors: a potential aerosol mass reactor (PAM) and a micro-smog chamber (MSC), were determined using aerosol mass spectrometry. Reactants were sampled from the SC and aged in the MSC and the PAM using a range of hydroxyl radical (OH) concentrations and then photo-chemically aged in the SC.

The chemical composition, as well as the maximum yields and emission factors, of the products in both the α-pinene and wood-combustion systems determined with the PAM and the SC agreed reasonably well. High OH exposures have been shown previously to lower yields by breaking carbon–carbon bonds and forming higher volatility species, which reside largely in the gas phase; however, fragmentation in the PAM was not observed. The yields determined using the PAM for the α-pinene system were slightly lower than in the SC, possibly from increased wall losses of gas phase species due to the higher surface area to volume ratios in the PAM, even when offset with better isolation of the sampled flow from the walls. The α-pinene SOA results for the MSC were not directly comparable, as particles were smaller than the optimal AMS transmission range. The higher supersaturation in the flow reactors resulted in more nucleation than in the SC. For the wood-combustion system, emission factors measured from the MSC were typically lower than those measured from the SC. Lower emission factors in the MSC may have been due to considerable nucleation mode particles formed in the MSC which were not detected by the AMS or due to condensational loss of gases to the walls inside or after the MSC. More comprehensive coverage of the potential particle size range is needed in future SOA measurements to improve our understanding of the differences in yields when comparing the MSC to the SC. The PAM and the SC agreed within measurement uncertainties in terms of yields and composition for the systems and conditions studied here and this agreement supports the continued use of the PAM to study atmospheric aging.