1Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
3Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
4Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
5Chemical Sciences Division, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO, USA
*now at: Tofwerk AG, Thun, Switzerland
**now at: Planning and Policy Program, Air Pollution Control Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver, CO, USA
Abstract. We report the physical and chemical effects of photochemically aging dilute biomass-burning smoke. A potential aerosol mass "PAM" flow reactor was used with analysis by a high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer and a proton-transfer reaction ion-trap mass spectrometer during the FLAME-3 campaign. Hydroxyl (OH) radical concentrations in the reactor reached up to ~ 1000 times average tropospheric levels, producing effective OH exposures equivalent to up to 5 days aging in the atmosphere. VOC observations show aromatics and terpenes decrease with aging, while formic acid and other unidentified oxidation products increase. Unidentified gas-phase oxidation products, previously observed in atmospheric and laboratory measurements, were observed here, including evidence of multiple generations of photochemistry. Substantial new organic aerosol (OA) mass ("net SOA"; secondary OA) was observed from aging biomass-burning smoke, resulting in an total OA average of 1.42 ± 0.36 times the initial primary OA (POA) after oxidation. This study confirms that the net SOA to POA ratio of biomass burning smoke is far lower on average than that observed for urban emissions. Although most fuels were very reproducible, significant differences were observed among the biomasses, with some fuels resulting in a doubling of the OA mass, while for others a very small increase or even a decrease was observed. Net SOA formation in the photochemical reactor increased with OH exposure (OHexp), typically peaking around three days of equivalent atmospheric photochemical age (OHexp ~ 3.9 × 1011 molecules cm−3 s−1), then leveling off at higher exposures. The amount of additional OA mass added from aging is positively correlated with initial POA concentration, but not with the total VOC concentration or the concentration of known SOA precursors. The mass of SOA formed often exceeds the mass of the known VOC precursors, indicating the likely importance of primary semivolatile/intermediate volatility species, and possibly of unidentified VOCs as SOA precursors in biomass burning smoke. Chemical transformations continue even after mass concentration stabilizes. Changes in the biomass-burning tracer f60 ranged from substantially decreasing to remaining constant with increased aging. With increased OHexp, oxidation was always detected (as indicated by f44 and O/C). POA O/C ranged 0.15–0.5, while aged OA O/C reached up to 0.87. The rate of oxidation and maximum O/C achieved differs for each biomass and appears to increase with the initial O/C of the POA.