Biomass burning (BB) is an important source of primary organic aerosols (POA). These POA contain a significant fraction of semivolatile organic compounds, and can release them into the gas phase during the dilution process in transport. Such evaporated compounds were termed “secondarily evaporated BB organic gases (SBB-OGs)” to distinguish them from the more studied primary emissions. SBB-OGs contribute to the formation of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) through reactions with atmospheric oxidants, and thus may influence human health and the Earth's radiation budget. In this study, tar materials collected from wood pyrolysis were taken as proxies for POA from smoldering-phase BB and were used to release SBB-OGs constantly in the lab. OH-initiated oxidation of the SBB-OGs in the absence of NOx was investigated using an oxidation flow reactor, and the chemical, optical, and toxicological properties of SOA were comprehensively characterized. Carbonyl compounds were the most abundant species in identified SOA species. Human lung epithelial cells exposed to an environmentally relevant dose of the most aged SOA did not exhibit detectable cell mortality. The oxidative potential of SOA was characterized with the dithiothreitol (DTT) assay, and its DTT consumption rate was 15.5 ± 0.5 pmol min−1 μg−1. The SOA present comparable light scattering to BB-POA, but have lower light absorption with imaginary refractive index less than 0.01 within the wavelength range of 360–600 nm. Calculations based on Mie theory show that pure airborne SOA with atmospherically relevant sizes of 50–400 nm have a cooling effect; when acting as the coating materials, these SOA can counteract the warming effect brought by airborne black carbon aerosol.
GrantsSAERI fellowship of the Weizmann Institute of Science US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) US National Science Foundation (NSF) Helmholtz Association Weizmann Institute of Science NSFC-ISF joint research program