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Published July 21, 2020 | public
Journal Article Open

Oxygenated Aromatic Compounds are Important Precursors of Secondary Organic Aerosol in Biomass Burning Emissions


Biomass burning is the largest combustion-related source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the atmosphere. We describe the development of a state-of-the-science model to simulate the photochemical formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) from biomass-burning emissions observed in dry (RH <20%) environmental chamber experiments. The modeling is supported by (i) new oxidation chamber measurements, (ii) detailed concurrent measurements of SOA precursors in biomass-burning emissions, and (iii) development of SOA parameters for heterocyclic and oxygenated aromatic compounds based on historical chamber experiments. We find that oxygenated aromatic compounds, including phenols and methoxyphenols, account for slightly less than 60% of the SOA formed and help our model explain the variability in the organic aerosol mass (R² = 0.68) and O/C (R² = 0.69) enhancement ratios observed across 11 chamber experiments. Despite abundant emissions, heterocyclic compounds that included furans contribute to ∼20% of the total SOA. The use of pyrolysis-temperature-based or averaged emission profiles to represent SOA precursors, rather than those specific to each fire, provide similar results to within 20%. Our findings demonstrate the necessity of accounting for oxygenated aromatics from biomass-burning emissions and their SOA formation in chemical mechanisms.

Additional Information

© 2020 American Chemical Society. Received: March 4, 2020; Revised: June 19, 2020; Accepted: June 19, 2020; Published: June 19, 2020. This work was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA17OAR4310003, NA17OAR4310001, NA16OAR4310112, and NA16OAR4310111), Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory (37-2018), the Environmental Protection Agency (RD839278), and the National Science Foundation (AGS-1559607). We thank Dr. Manish Shrivastava for useful discussions and Dr. Steven Brown for reviewing this manuscript. Author Contributions: A.A., J.R.P., and S.H.J. designed the study. A.A. developed the model and analyzed the results. Y.H. helped with model inputs. M.M.C., A.R.K., K.S., C.W., and J.d.G. provided access to emission data. M.M.C. performed MCM simulations. A.L.H. modeled losses in transfer duct and sampling lines and shared field O/C data. L.Y. and J.H.S. provided access to oxygenated aromatic chamber data. T.B.O., S.C.H., and W.B.K. provided access to measurements made during FIREX. C.D.C. and M.J.K. helped with model development. C.Y.L., J.H.K., and C.D.C. provided access to minichamber data during FIREX. A.A., J.R.P., and S.H.J. wrote the paper with input from all co-authors. The authors declare no competing financial interest.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023