Nighttime enhancement of PM2.5nitrate in ammonia-poor atmospheric conditions in Beijing and Shanghai: Plausible contributions of heterogeneous hydrolysis of N2O5and HNO3partitioning

Ravi Kant Pathak, Tao Wang, Wai Shing Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


In our previous study, exceptionally high concentrations of nitrate (24-h average of up to 42μgm-3) were found in ammonium-deficient samples of PM2.5during summer 2005 near Beijing and Shanghai. The formation of such high levels of nitrate in ammonium-poor PM2.5cannot be explained by the homogeneous gas-phase reaction mechanism involving ammonia and nitric acid. Hence, we postulated that high levels of nitrate were formed via the heterogeneous hydrolysis of N2O5.In the present study, we further examine the formation of nitrate using hourly measurements of sulfate and nitrate and a multiphase chemistry box model (RACM+CAPRAM). Enhancements of nitrate and the NO3-/NOyratio were observed at nighttime when sulfate and NOyconcentrations remained relatively stable. These enhancements and a concomitant shift in the size of the nitrate concentration peak to a bin larger than that of sulfate peak suggested the possibility that nitrate was formed on pre-existing sulfate aerosol surfaces. A multiphase chemistry box model was set up to simulate the observed enhancement of nitrate at nighttime. The model was constrained by the measured concentrations of sulfate, nitrate, ammonium and O3and NOy, and estimated acidity and aerosol water content using a thermodynamic model (AIM). Assuming an NO2/NOyratio in the range of 0.2-0.4 for Beijing and 0.4-0.6 for Shanghai, the model results suggest that the heterogeneous hydrolysis of N2O5contributed 50%-100% of the nighttime enhancement of nitrate concentration. Sensitivity analysis shows that increasing the aerosol water content significantly favors the partitioning of nitrate in the aerosol phase that was formed via the hydrolysis of N2O5at nighttime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1191
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011


  • China
  • Heterogeneous hydrolysis of N2O5
  • Nighttime nitrate chemistry
  • Reaction probability of N2O5

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

Cite this