Laboratory insights into the diel cycle of optical and chemical transformations of biomass burning brown carbon aerosol

Chunlin Li, Quanfu He, Steven S. Brown, Alexander Laskin, Sidney R. Cohen, Yinon Rudich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transformations of biomass burning brown carbon aerosols (BB-BrC) over their diurnal lifecycle are currently not well studied. In this study, the aging of BB tar proxy aerosols processed by NO3• under dark conditions followed by photochemical OH• reaction and photolysis were investigated in tandem flow reactors. The results show that O3 oxidation in the dark diminishes light absorption of wood tar aerosols, resulting in higher particle single-scattering albedo (SSA). NO3• reactions augment the mass absorption coefficient (MAC) of the aerosols by a factor of 2-3 by forming secondary chromophores, such as nitroaromatic compounds (NACs) and organonitrates. Subsequent OH• oxidation and direct photolysis both decompose the organic nitrates (ONs, representing bulk functionalities of NACs and organonitrates) in the NO3•-aged wood tar aerosols, thus decreasing the particle absorption. Moreover, the NACs degrade faster than the organonitrates by photochemical aging. The NO3•-aged wood tar aerosols are more susceptible to photolysis than to OH• reactions. The photolysis lifetimes for the ONs and for the absorbance of the NO3•-aged aerosols are on the order of hours under typical solar irradiation, while the absorption and ONs lifetimes towards OH• oxidation are substantially longer. Overall, nighttime aging via NO3• reactions increases the light absorption of wood tar aerosols and shortens their absorption lifetime under daytime conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11827–11837
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number19
Early online date1 Sep 2020
StatePublished - 6 Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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