Atmospheric fate of peroxyacetyl nitrate in suburban Hong Kong and its impact on local ozone pollution

L. Zeng, Gang Jie Fan, Xiaopu Lyu, Hai Guo, Jia Lin Wang, D. Yao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) is an important reservoir of atmospheric nitrogen, modulating reactive nitrogen cycle and ozone (O3) formation. To understand the origins of PAN, a field measurement was conducted at Tung Chung site (TC) in suburban Hong Kong from October to November 2016. The average level of PAN was 0.63 ± 0.05 ppbv, with a maximum of 7.30 ppbv. Higher PAN/O3 ratio (0.043–0.058) was captured on episodes, i.e. when hourly maximum O3 exceeded 80 ppbv, than on non-episodes (0.01), since O3 production was less efficient than PAN when there was an elevation of precursors (i.e. volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide (NOx)). Model simulations revealed that oxidations of acetaldehyde (65.3 ± 2.3%), methylglyoxal (MGLY, 12.7 ± 1.2%) and other oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs) (8.0 ± 0.6%), and radical cycling (12.2 ± 0.8%) were the major production pathways of peroxyacetyl (PA) radical, while local PAN formation was controlled by both VOCs and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Among all VOC species, carbonyls made the highest contribution (59%) to PAN formation, followed by aromatics (26%) and biogenic VOCs (BVOCs) (10%) through direct oxidation/decomposition. Besides, active VOCs (i.e. carbonyls, aromatics, BVOCs and alkenes/alkynes) could stimulate hydroxyl (OH) production, thus indirectly facilitating the PAN formation. Apart from primary emissions, carbonyls were also generated from oxidation of first-generation precursors, i.e., hydrocarbons, of which xylenes contributed the most to PAN production. Furthermore, PAN formation suppressed local O3 formation at a rate of 2.84 ppbv/ppbv, when NO2, OH and hydroperoxy (HO2) levels decreased and nitrogen monoxide (NO) value enhanced. Namely, O3 was reduced by 2.84 ppbv per ppbv PAN formation. Net O3 production rate was weakened (∼36%) due to PAN photochemistry, so as each individual production and loss pathway. The findings advanced our knowledge of atmospheric PAN and its impact on O3 production. Local O3 formation was weakened by in-situ PAN formation, mostly driven by carbonyls through their direct decomposition and facilitation on OH concentration in suburban Hong Kong.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1910-1919
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Formation pathways
  • Master chemical mechanism (MCM)
  • O formation
  • Photochemical smog
  • Precursors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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