Secondary organic aerosol formation at an urban background site on the coastline of South China: Precursors and aging processes

Dawen Yao, Hai Guo, Xiaopu Lyu, Haoxian Lu, Yunxi Huo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the formation mechanisms of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) is an arduous task in atmospheric chemistry. In November 2018, a sampling campaign was conducted at an urban background site in Hong Kong for characterization of secondary air pollution. A high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer was used to monitor the compositions of non-refractory submicron particulate matters (NR-PM1), and multiple online instruments provided us with comprehensive auxiliary data. Organic aerosol (OA) constituted the largest fraction (43.8%) of NR-PM1, and 86.5% of the organics was contributed by the oxygenated OA (OOA, secondary components). Formation mechanisms of a dominant and more variable component of the less-oxidized OOA (labelled as LO-OOA1 in this study) and the more-oxidized OOA (MO-OOA) were explored. Based on the multilinear regression with molecular markers of OA (e.g., hydroxybenzonic acids and 2,3-dihydroxy-4-oxopentanoic acid), we presumed that anthropogenic organic compounds, especially aromatics, were the most likely precursors of LO-OOA1. MO-OOA correlated well with odd oxygen (Ox), and its concentration responded positively to the increase of liquid water content (LWC) in NR-PM1, indicating that the formation of MO-OOA involved photochemical oxidation and aqueous processes. It exhibited the best correlation with malic acid which can be formed through the oxidation of various precursors. Moreover, it was plausible that LO-OOA1 was further oxidized to MO-OOA through aqueous processes, as indicated by the consistent diurnal variations of MO-OOA to LO-OOA1 ratio and LWC. This study highlights the important roles of anthropogenic emissions and aqueous processes in SOA formation in coastal areas downwind of cities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119778
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2022


  • Anthropogenic emissions
  • Aqueous processes
  • Organic aerosol markers
  • Photochemical oxidation
  • Secondary organic aerosols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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