Measurement of Formation Rates of Secondary Aerosol in the Ambient Urban Atmosphere Using a Dual Smog Chamber System

Environ Sci Technol. 2020 Feb 4;54(3):1336-1343. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b03479. Epub 2020 Jan 21.


A dual smog chamber system was used to quantify the formation rates of secondary organic and inorganic aerosol in an urban environment (Pittsburgh, US). Ambient air was introduced in both chambers, and HONO photolysis was used to produce hydroxyl radicals (OH) in the perturbed chamber. The second chamber was used as a reference. The production rate of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) under typical noon-time OH concentrations ranged from 0.2 to 0.8 μg m-3 h-1. The production rate of sulfate was approximately five times less than that of the SOA. Nucleation and growth of new particles were observed in the perturbation chamber. The produced SOA had a similar composition with the preexisting oxygenated ambient OA. The reacted amounts of the measured VOCs were able to explain 5-50% of the formed SOA in the perturbed chamber. Intermediate volatility organic compounds could be responsible for the rest. The oxygen to carbon ratio (O:C) in the perturbed chamber remained approximately the same during SOA production, while an increase was observed in the control chamber. A possible explanation could be the loss of less oxidized species to the chamber walls. After 2 h, the OA increased by 70% on average and the sulfate by 40%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants*
  • Atmosphere
  • Smog
  • Volatile Organic Compounds*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Smog
  • Volatile Organic Compounds