Chemical Reactivity and Liquid/Nonliquid States of Secondary Organic Material

Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Nov 17;49(22):13264-74. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b03392. Epub 2015 Oct 30.


The reactivity of secondary organic material (SOM) of variable viscosity, ranging from nonliquid to liquid physical states, was studied. The SOM, produced in aerosol form from terpenoid and aromatic precursor species, was reacted with ammonia at variable relative humidity (RH). The ammonium-to-organic mass ratio (MNH4+/MOrg) increased monotonically from <5% RH to a limiting value at a threshold RH, implicating a transition from particle reactivity limited by diffusion at low RH to one limited by other factors at higher RH. For the studied size distributions and reaction times, the transition corresponded to a diffusivity above 10-17.5 ± 0.5 m2 s-1. The threshold RH values for the transition were <5% RH for isoprene-derived SOM, 35-45% RH for SOM derived from α-pinene, toluene, m-xylene, and 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene, and >90% for β-caryophyllene-derived SOM. The transition RH for reactivity differed in all cases from the transition RH of a nonliquid to a liquid state. For instance, for α-pinene-derived SOM the transition for chemical reactivity of 35-45% RH can be compared to the nonliquid to liquid transition of 65-90% RH. These differences imply that chemical transport models of atmospheric chemistry should not use the SOM liquid to nonliquid phase transition as one-to-one surrogates of SOM reactivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / chemistry*
  • Ammonia / chemistry
  • Benzene Derivatives / chemistry
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Butadienes / chemistry
  • Diffusion
  • Hemiterpenes / chemistry
  • Humidity
  • Monoterpenes / chemistry
  • Pentanes / chemistry
  • Phase Transition
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Sesquiterpenes / chemistry
  • Terpenes / chemistry*
  • Toluene
  • Viscosity
  • Xylenes / chemistry


  • 1,3,5-trimethylenebenzene
  • Aerosols
  • Benzene Derivatives
  • Bicyclic Monoterpenes
  • Butadienes
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Pentanes
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Terpenes
  • Xylenes
  • isoprene
  • Toluene
  • Ammonia
  • caryophyllene
  • alpha-pinene
  • 3-xylene