Quantifying the Nitrogen Sources and Secondary Formation of Ambient HONO with a Stable Isotopic Method

Zheng Zong, Tao Wang, Jiajue Chai, Yue Tan, Pengfei Liu, Chongguo Tian, Jun Li, Yunting Fang, Gan Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nitrous acid (HONO) is a reactive gas that plays an important role in atmospheric chemistry. However, accurately quantifying its direct emissions and secondary formation in the atmosphere as well as attributing it to specific nitrogen sources remains a significant challenge. In this study, we developed a novel method using stable nitrogen and oxygen isotopes (δ15N; δ18O) for apportioning ambient HONO in an urban area in North China. The results show that secondary formation was the dominant HONO formation processes during both day and night, with the NO2 heterogeneous reaction contributing 59.0 ± 14.6% in daytime and 64.4 ± 10.8% at nighttime. A Bayesian simulation demonstrated that the average contributions of coal combustion, biomass burning, vehicle exhaust, and soil emissions to HONO were 22.2 ± 13.1, 26.0 ± 5.7, 28.6 ± 6.7, and 23.2 ± 8.1%, respectively. We propose that the isotopic method presents a promising approach for identifying nitrogen sources and the secondary formation of HONO, which could contribute to mitigating HONO and its adverse effects on air quality.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Bayesian model
  • HONO formation
  • HONO nitrogen sources
  • nitrogen isotope
  • oxygen isotope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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