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Clearing the Air: A Chemical Approach to Understanding Secondary Organic Aerosol Formation From Volatile Chemical Products


Buenconsejo, Reina S. (2024) Clearing the Air: A Chemical Approach to Understanding Secondary Organic Aerosol Formation From Volatile Chemical Products. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/6sq5-5m61.


Understanding sources of air pollution is critically important as ~7 million premature deaths are associated with poor air quality. A key component of urban air quality is secondary organic aerosol (SOA), a type of particulate matter that contributes smog. SOA is formed via the reactive oxidation of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), gas-phase compounds often emitted from anthropogenic sources. Historically, SOA formation and VOC emissions have been driven by on-road mobile sources. In recent years, however, other sources, such as consumer and industrial solvents - so called volatile chemical products (VCPs) - have become increasingly more important. SOA also impacts climate change, as particulate matter affects global radiative forcing. Characterizing the chemistry and SOA formation from VCPs can elucidate our understanding of modern urban air pollution, particularly as we try to uncover recent stagnation in air quality. Because VCPs are comprised of hundreds of individual chemical compounds, it is exceedingly difficult to study and characterize each one individually. By contrast, understanding these compounds through a chemistry lens can help to make broader generalizations about larger classes of compounds. This dissertation looks at the chemistry leading to SOA formation from several chemicals that make up VCPs. Specifically, this work looks at benzyl alcohol and ethoxyethanol. These compounds are used in personal care products, cleaning products, architectural coatings and adhesives. Understanding the reactivity of these compounds can help us understand more broadly the chemistry and SOA potential of other chemicals in VCPs that have similar chemical structures.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Air quality, atmospheric chemistry, secondary organic aerosol, particulate matter, benzyl alcohol, ethoxyethanol, volatile chemical products
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Seinfeld, John H. (co-advisor)
  • Wennberg, Paul O. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Flagan, Richard C. (chair)
  • Seinfeld, John H.
  • Wennberg, Paul O.
  • Okumura, Mitchio
Defense Date:12 April 2024
Non-Caltech Author Email:rbuencon (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
California Air Resources Board18RD009
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship1745301
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05302024-161447176
Persistent URL:
Buenconsejo, Reina S.0000-0002-0162-905X
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:16447
Deposited By: Reina Buenconsejo
Deposited On:31 May 2024 23:36
Last Modified:31 May 2024 23:36

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