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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-914
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-914
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 13 Nov 2018

Research article | 13 Nov 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Unraveling the role of silicon in atmospheric aerosol secondary formation: A new conservative tracer for aerosol chemistry

Dawei Lu1, Jihua Tan2, Xuezhi Yang1,2, Xu Sun1, Qian Liu1,2,3, and Guibin Jiang1,2 Dawei Lu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
  • 2College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • 3Institute of Environment and Health, Jianghan University, Wuhan 430056, China

Abstract. Aerosol particles are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and affect the quality of human life through their climatic and health effects. The formation and growth of aerosol particles involve extremely complex reactions and processes. Due to limited research tools, the sources and chemistry of aerosols are still not fully understood, and until now they are normally investigated by using chemical species of secondary aerosols (e.g., NH4+, NO3-, SO42-, SOC) as tracers. Here we investigated the role of silicon (Si), a ubiquitous but relatively inert element, during the secondary aerosol formation process. We analyzed the correlation of Si in airborne fine particles (PM2.5) collected in Beijing—a typical pollution region—with the secondary chemical species and secondary particle precursors (e.g., SO2 and NOx). The total mass of Si in PM2.5 was found to be uncorrelated with the secondary aerosol formation process, which suggested that Si is a new conservative tracer for aerosol chemistry. This finding enables the accurate estimation of secondary aerosol contribution to PM2.5 by using Si as a single tracer rather than normally used multiple chemical tracers. In addition, we show that the correlation analysis of secondary aerosols with the Si isotopic composition of PM2.5 can further reveal the sources of the precursors of secondary aerosols. Therefore, Si may open a new method for aerosol chemistry studies and pollution control policy development.

Dawei Lu et al.
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Short summary
We investigated for the first time the role of Si during secondary formation process of PM2.5. We show the uncorrelation of Si with the secondary aerosol (SA) formation, which reveals a new conservative tracer for aerosol chemistry studies. The SA contribution can be accurately estimated by using Si as a single tracer rather than normally used multiple chemical tracers. The correlation analysis of SA with the Si isotopic composition of PM2.5 can also reveal the sources of the precursors of SA.
We investigated for the first time the role of Si during secondary formation process of PM2.5....
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