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ACS Earth and Space Chemistry



Pre-print: the initial article submitted to the journal for consideration (prior to peer review)




Brown carbon (BrC) formed from glyoxal+ammonium sulfate (AS) and methylglyoxal+AS reactions photobleaches quickly, leading to the assumption that BrC formed overnight by Maillard reactions will be rapidly destroyed at sunrise. Here, we tested this assumption by reacting glyoxal, methylglyoxal, glycolaldehyde, or hydroxyacetone in aqueous mixtures with reduced nitrogen species at pH 4–5 in the dark and in sunlight (>350 nm) for at least 10 h. The absorption of fresh carbonyl+AS mixtures decreased when exposed to sunlight, and no BrC formed, as expected from previous work. However, the addition of amines (either methylamine or glycine) allowed BrC to form in sunlight at comparable rates as in the dark. Hydroxyacetone+amine+AS aqueous mixtures generally browned faster in sunlight than in the dark, especially in the presence of HOOH, indicating a radical-initiated BrC formation mechanism is involved. In experiments with airborne aqueous aerosol containing AS, methylamine, and glyoxal or methylglyoxal, browning was further enhanced, especially in sunlight (>300 nm), forming aerosol with optical properties similar to “very weak” atmospheric BrC. Liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS) analysis of aerosol filter extracts indicates that exposure of methylglyoxal+AS aqueous aerosol to methylamine gas, sunlight, and cloud processing increases incorporation of ammonia, methylamine, and photolytic species (e.g., acetyl radicals) into conjugated oligomer products. These results suggest that when amines are present, photolysis of first-generation, “dark reaction” BrC (imines and imidazoles) initiates faster, radical-initiated browning processes that may successfully compete with photobleaching, are enhanced in aqueous aerosol particles relative to bulk liquid solutions, and can produce BrC consistent with atmospheric observations.


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