Enhanced secondary organic aerosol formation due to water uptake by fine particles


This study characterizes the partitioning behavior of a significant fraction of the ambient organic aerosol through simultaneous measurements of gas and particle water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC). During the summer in Atlanta, WSOC gas/particle partitioning showed a strong RH dependence that was attributed to particulate liquid water. At elevated RH levels (>∼70%), a significant increase in WSOC partitioning to the particle phase was observed and followed the predicted water uptake by fine particles. The enhancement in particle-phase partitioning translated to increased median particle WSOC concentrations ranging from 0.3-0.9 μg C m-3. The results provide a detailed overview of the WSOC partitioning behavior in the summertime in an urban region dominated by biogenic emissions, and indicate that secondary organic aerosol formation involving partitioning to liquid water may be a significant aerosol formation route that is generally not considered. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.