Autoxidation of Organic Compounds in the Atmosphere

Crounse, J. D., L. B. Nielsen, S. Jørgensen, H. G. Kjaergaard, and P. Wennberg (2013), Autoxidation of Organic Compounds in the Atmosphere, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2013, dx.

We present a hypothesis that autoxidation (inter- and intramolecular hydrogen abstraction by peroxy radicals) plays an important role in the oxidation of organic compounds in the atmosphere, particularly organic matter associated with aerosol. In the laboratory, we determine the rate of this process at room temperature for a model system, 3-pentanone. We employ ab initio calculations to investigate H-shifts within a broader group of substituted organic compounds. We show that the rate of abstraction of hydrogen by peroxy radicals is largely determined by the thermochemistry of the nascent alkyl radicals and thus is highly influenced by neighboring substituents. As a result, autoxidation rates increase rapidly as oxygen-containing functional groups (carbonyl, hydroxy, and hydroperoxy) are added to organic compounds. This mechanism is consistent with formation of the multifunctional hydroperoxides and carbonyls often found in atmospheric aerosol particles. SECTION: Environmental and Atmospheric Chemistry, Aerosol Processes, Geochemistry, and Astrochemistry