Products and mechanism of secondary organic aerosol formation from reactions of n-alkanes with OH radicals in the presence of NOx

Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Dec 1;39(23):9229-36. doi: 10.1021/es051447g.


Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from reactions of n-alkanes with OH radicals in the presence of NOx was investigated in an environmental chamber using a thermal desorption particle beam mass spectrometer for particle analysis. SOA consisted of both first- and higher-generation products, all of which were nitrates. Major first-generation products were sigma-hydroxynitrates, while higher-generation products consisted of dinitrates, hydroxydinitrates, and substituted tetrahydrofurans containing nitrooxy, hydroxyl, and carbonyl groups. The substituted tetrahydrofurans are formed by a series of reactions in which sigma-hydroxycarbonyls isomerize to cyclic hemiacetals, which then dehydrate to form substituted dihydrofurans (unsaturated compounds) that quickly react with OH radicals to form lower volatility products. SOA yields ranged from approximately 0.5% for C8 to approximately 53% for C15, with a sharp increase from approximately 8% for C11 to approximately 50% for C13. This was probably due to an increase in the contribution of first-generation products, as well as other factors. For example, SOA formed from the C10 reaction contained no first-generation products, while for the C15 reaction SOA was approximately 40% first-generation and approximately 60% higher-generation products, respectively. First-generation sigma-hydroxycarbonyls are especially important in SOA formation, since their subsequent reactions can rapidly form low volatility compounds. In the atmosphere, substituted dihydrofurans created from sigma-hydroxycarbonyls will primarily react with O3 or NO3 radicals, thereby opening reaction pathways not normally accessible to saturated compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols*
  • Alkanes / chemistry*
  • Atmosphere
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Nitrogen Oxides / chemistry*
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*


  • Aerosols
  • Alkanes
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Hydroxyl Radical