1Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
2Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, B80 Guyot Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
3International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), Lilla Frescativägen 4a, Stockholm, Sweden
*now at: Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 15213, Pennsylvania, USA
Abstract. Previous experiments have demonstrated that the aqueous OH radical oxidation of methylglyoxal produces low volatility products including oxalate and oligomers. These products are found predominantly in the particle phase in the atmosphere, suggesting that methylglyoxal is a precursor of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). Acetic acid is an important intermediate in aqueous methylglyoxal oxidation and a ubiquitous product of gas phase photochemistry, making it a potential "aqueous" SOA precursor in its own right. Altieri et al. (2008) proposed that acetic acid was the precursor of oligoesters observed in methylglyoxal oxidation. However, the fate of acetic acid upon aqueous-phase oxidation is not well understood. In this research, acetic acid at concentrations relevant to atmospheric waters (20 μM–10 mM) was oxidized by OH radical. Products were analyzed by ion chromatography (IC), electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS), and IC-ESI-MS. The formation of glyoxylic, glycolic, and oxalic acids were observed. In contrast to methylglyoxal oxidation, succinic acid and oligomers were not detected. Using results from these and methylglyoxal + OH radical experiments, radical mechanisms responsible for oligomer formation from methylglyoxal oxidation in clouds and wet aerosols are proposed. The importance of acetic acid/acetate as an SOA precursor is also discussed. We hypothesize that this and similar chemistry is central to the daytime formation of oligomers in wet aerosols.