Aerosol speciation and mass prediction from toluene oxidation under high NOx conditions
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A kinetically based gas-particle partitioning box model is used to highlight the importance of parameter representation in the prediction of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation following the photo-oxidation of toluene. The model is initialized using experimental data from York University's indoor smog chamber and provides a prediction of the total aerosol yield and speciation. A series of model sensitivity experiments were performed to study the aerosol speciation and mass prediction under high NOx conditions (VOC/NOx = 0.2). Sensitivity experiments indicate vapour pressure estimation to be a large area of weakness in predicting aerosol mass, creating an average total error range of 70 μg m−3 (range of 5–145 μg m−3), using two different estimation methods. Aerosol speciation proved relatively insensitive to changes in vapour pressure. One species, 3-methyl-6-nitro-catechol, dominated the aerosol phase regardless of the vapour pressure parameterization used and comprised 73–88% of the aerosol by mass. The dominance is associated with the large concentration of 3-methyl-6-nitro-catechol in the gas-phase. The high NOx initial conditions of this study suggests that the predominance of 3-methyl-6-nitro-catechol likely results from the cresol-forming branch in the Master Chemical Mechanism taking a significant role in secondary organic aerosol formation under high NOx conditions. Further research into the yields and speciation leading to this reaction product is recommended.