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Modeling the Effect of Vapor Wall Deposition on the Formation of Secondary Organic Aerosol in Chamber Studies


McVay, Renee Catherine (2016) Modeling the Effect of Vapor Wall Deposition on the Formation of Secondary Organic Aerosol in Chamber Studies. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9FX77DG.


Laboratory chamber experiments are used to investigate formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) from biogenic and anthropogenic precursors under a variety of environmental conditions. Simulations of these experiments test our understanding of the prevailing chemistry of SOA formation as well as the dynamic processes occurring in the chamber itself. One dynamic process occurring in the chamber that was only recently recognized is the deposition of vapor species to the Teflon walls of the chamber. Low-volatility products formed from the oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) deposit on the walls rather than forming SOA, decreasing the amount of SOA formed (quantified as the SOA yield: mass of SOA formed per mass of VOC reacted). In this work, several modeling studies are presented that address the effect of vapor wall deposition on SOA formation in chambers.

A coupled vapor-particle dynamics model is used to examine the competition among the rates of gas-phase oxidation to low volatility products, wall deposition of these products, and mass transfer to the particle phase. The relative time scales of these rates control the amount of SOA formed by affecting the influence of vapor wall deposition. Simulations show that an effect on SOA yield of changing the vapor-particle mass transfer rate is only observed when SOA formation is kinetically limited. For systems with kinetically limited SOA formation, increasing the rate of vapor-particle mass transfer by increasing the concentration of seed particles is an effective way to minimize the effect of vapor wall deposition.

This coupled vapor-particle dynamics model is then applied to α-pinene ozonolysis SOA experiments. Experiments show that the SOA yield is affected when changing the oxidation rate but not when changing the rate of gas-particle mass transfer by changing the concentration of seed particles. Model simulations show that the absence of an effect of changing the seed particle concentration is consistent with SOA formation being governed by quasi-equilibrium growth, in which gas-particle equilibrium is established much faster than the rate of change of the gas-phase concentration. The observed effect of oxidation rate on SOA yield arises due to the presence of vapor wall deposition: gas-phase oxidation products are produced more quickly and condense preferentially onto seed particles before being lost to the walls. Therefore, for α-pinene ozonolysis, increasing the oxidation rate is the most effective way to mitigate the influence of vapor wall deposition.

Finally, the detailed model GECKO-A (Generator for Explicit Chemistry and Kinetics of Organics in the Atmosphere) is used to simulate α-pinene photooxidation SOA experiments. Unexpectedly, α-pinene OH oxidation experiments show no effect when changing either the oxidation rate or the vapor-particle mass transfer rate, whereas GECKO-A predicts that changing the oxidation rate should drastically affect the SOA yield. Sensitivity studies show that the assumed magnitude of the vapor wall deposition rate can greatly affect conclusions drawn from comparisons between simulations and experiments. If vapor wall loss in the Caltech chamber is of order 10-5 s-1, GECKO-A greatly overpredicts SOA during high UV experiments, likely due to an overprediction of second-generation products. However, if instead vapor wall loss in the Caltech chamber is of order 10-3 s-1, GECKO-A greatly underpredicts SOA during low UV experiments, possibly due to missing autoxidation pathways in the α-pinene mechanism.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:secondary organic aerosol; vapor wall loss; atmospheric chemistry; environmental chambers
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Seinfeld, John H.
Thesis Committee:
  • Seinfeld, John H. (chair)
  • Wennberg, Paul O.
  • Flagan, Richard C.
  • Okumura, Mitchio
Defense Date:8 June 2016
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144469
National Science FoundationAGS-1523500
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05172016-133615016
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 2 adapted for ch. 3 adapted for ch. 4 adapted for Appendix D adapted for Appendix E adapted for Appendix F
McVay, Renee Catherine0000-0001-7766-5009
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9725
Deposited By: Renee McVay
Deposited On:17 Jun 2016 16:25
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:13

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