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Title: Molecular composition and photochemical lifetimes of brown carbon chromophores in biomass burning organic aerosol
Abstract. To better understand the effects of wildfires on air quality andclimate, it is important to assess the occurrence of chromophoric compoundsin smoke and characterize their optical properties. This study explores themolecular composition of light-absorbing organic aerosol, or brown carbon(BrC), sampled at the Missoula Fire Sciences laboratory as a part of theFIREX Fall 2016 lab intensive. A total of 12 biomass fuels from different planttypes were tested, including gymnosperm (coniferous) and angiosperm(flowering) plants and different ecosystem components such as duff, litter,and canopy. Emitted biomass burning organic aerosol (BBOA) particles werecollected onto Teflon filters and analyzed offline using high-performanceliquid chromatography coupled to a photodiode array spectrophotometer and a high-resolution mass spectrometer(HPLC–PDA–HRMS). Separated BrC chromophores were classified by theirretention times, absorption spectra, integrated absorbance in the near-UVand visible spectral range (300–700 nm), and chemical formulas from theaccurate m∕z measurements. BrC chromophores were grouped into the followingclasses and subclasses: lignin-derived products, which include lignin pyrolysisproducts; distillation products, which include coumarins and flavonoids;nitroaromatics; and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The observedclasses and subclasses were common across most fuel types, although specific BrCchromophores varied based on plant type (gymnosperm or angiosperm) andecosystem component(s) burned. To study the stability of the observed BrCcompounds with respect to photodegradation, BBOA particle samples wereirradiated directly on filters with near UV (300–400 nm) radiation, followedby extraction and HPLC–PDA–HRMS analysis. Lifetimes of individual BrCchromophores depended on the fuel type and the corresponding combustioncondition. Lignin-derived and flavonoid classes of BrC generally hadthe longest lifetimes with respect to UV photodegradation. Moreover,lifetimes for the same type of BrC chromophores varied depending on biomassfuel and combustion conditions. While individual BrC chromophoresdisappeared on a timescale of several days, the overall light absorption bythe sample persisted longer, presumably because the condensed-phasephotochemical processes converted one set of chromophores into anotherwithout complete photobleaching or from undetected BrC chromophores thatphotobleached more slowly. To model the effect of BrC on climate, it isimportant to understand the change in the overall absorption coefficientwith time. We measured the equivalent atmospheric lifetimes of the overallBrC absorption coefficient, which ranged from 10 to 41 d, with subalpinefir having the shortest lifetime and conifer canopies, i.e., juniper, havingthe longest lifetime. BrC emitted from biomass fuel loads encompassingmultiple ecosystem components (litter, shrub, canopy) had absorptionlifetimes on the lower end of the range. These results indicate thatphotobleaching of BBOA by condensed-phase photochemistry isrelatively slow. Competing chemical aging mechanisms, such as heterogeneousoxidation by OH, may be more important for controlling the rate of BrCphotobleaching in BBOA.  more » « less
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Journal Name:
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1105 to 1129
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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