Indexed on: 31 May '18Published on: 31 May '18Published in: Environmental Science & Technology
The extent to which motor vehicles contribute to ambient secondary organic aerosol (SOA) remains uncertain. Here, we present in-situ measurements of SOA formation at a near-highway site with substantial tree-cover 10 m from Interstate 40 near Durham, North Carolina. In July-2015 (summer) and February-2016 (winter), we exposed ambient air to a range of oxidant (O3 and OH) concentrations in an Oxidation Flow Reactor (OFR), resulting in hours to weeks of equivalent atmospheric aging. We observed substantial seasonal variation in SOA formation upon OFR aging; diurnally varying OA enhancements of ~ 3-8 μg m-3 were observed in summer and significantly lower enhancements (~0.5-1 μg m-3) in winter. Measurements in both seasons showed consistent changes in bulk OA properties (chemical composition; volatility) with OFR aging. Mild increases in traffic-related SOA precursors during summer partly explains the seasonal variation. However, biogenic emissions, with sharp temperature dependence, appear to dominate summer OFR-SOA. Our analysis indicates that SOA observed in the OFR is similar (within a factor of 2) to that predicted to form from traffic and biogenic precursors using literature yields, especially in winter. This study highlights the utility of the OFR for studying the prevalence of SOA precursors in complex real-world settings.