Non-equilibrium interplay between gas-particle partitioning and multiphase chemical reactions of semi-volatile compounds: mechanistic insights and practical implications for atmospheric modeling of PAHs
Abstract. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are carcinogenic air pollutants. The dispersion of PAHs in the atmosphere is influenced by gas-particle partitioning and chemical loss. These processes are closely interlinked and may occur at vastly differing timescales, which complicates their mathematical description in chemical transport models. Here, we use a kinetic model that explicitly resolves mass transport and chemical reactions in the gas and particle phases to describe and explore
... cribe and explore the dynamic and non-equilibrium interplay of gas-particle partitioning and chemical losses of PAHs on soot particles. We define the equilibration timescale τeq of gas-particle partitioning as the e-folding time for relaxation of the system to the partitioning equilibrium. We find this metric to span seconds to hours depending on temperature, particle surface area and the type of PAH. The equilibration time can be approximated using a time-independent equation τeq &approx; 1/(kdes + kads), which depends on the desorption rate coefficient kdes and adsorption rate coefficient kads, both of which can be calculated from experimentally-accessible parameters. The model reveals two regimes in which different physical processes control the equilibration timescale: a desorption-controlled and an adsorption-controlled regime. In a case study with the PAH pyrene, we illustrate how chemical loss can perturb the equilibrium particulate fraction at typical atmospheric concentrations of O3 and OH. For the surface reaction with O3, the perturbation is significant and increases with the gas-phase concentration of O3. Conversely, perturbations are smaller for reaction with the OH radical, which reacts with PAHs on both the surface of particles and in the gas phase. Global and regional chemical transport models typically approximate gas-particle partitioning with instantaneous equilibration approaches. We highlight scenarios in which these approximations deviate from the explicit-coupled treatment of gas-particle partitioning and chemistry presented in this study. We find that the discrepancy between solutions depends on the operator-splitting time step and the choice of time step can help to minimize the discrepancy. The findings and techniques presented in this work are not only relevant for PAHs, but can also be applied to other semi-volatile substances that undergo chemical reactions and mass transport between the gas and particle phase.