Intermediate-volatility organic compounds: a large source of secondary organic aerosol

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Dec 2;48(23):13743-50. doi: 10.1021/es5035188. Epub 2014 Nov 19.


Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is a major component of atmospheric fine particle mass. Intermediate-volatility organic compounds (IVOCs) have been proposed to be an important source of SOA. We present a comprehensive analysis of atmospheric IVOC concentrations and their SOA production using measurements made in Pasadena, California during the California at the Nexus of Air Quality and Climate Change (CalNex) study. The campaign-average concentration of primary IVOCs was 6.3 ± 1.9 μg m(-3) (average ± standard deviation), which is comparable to the concentration of organic aerosol but only 7.4 ± 1.2% of the concentration of speciated volatile organic compounds. Only 8.6 ± 2.2% of the mass of the primary IVOCs was speciated. Almost no weekend/weekday variation in the ambient concentration of both speciated and total primary IVOCs was observed, suggesting that petroleum-related sources other than on-road diesel vehicles contribute substantially to the IVOC emissions. Primary IVOCs are estimated to produce about 30% of newly formed SOA in the afternoon during CalNex, about 5 times that from single-ring aromatics. The importance of IVOCs in SOA formation is expected to be similar in many urban environments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • California
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Time Factors
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Volatile Organic Compounds