Chemical characterisation of benzene oxidation products under high- and low-NOx conditions using chemical ionisation mass spectrometry

Michael Priestley*, Thomas J. Bannan, Michael Le Breton, Stephen David Worrall, Sungah Kang, Iida Pullinen, Sebastian Schmitt, Ralf Tillmann, Einhard Kleist, Defeng Zhao, Jurgen Wildt, Olga Garmash, Archit Mehra, Asan Bacak, Dudley E. Shallcross, Astrid Kiendler-Scharr, Mattias Hallquist, Mikael Ehn, Hugh Coe, Carl J. PercivalAsa Hallquist, Thomas Mentel, Gordon McFiggans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aromatic hydrocarbons are a class of volatile organic compounds associated with anthropogenic activity and make up a significant fraction of urban volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions that contribute to the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). Benzene is one of the most abundant species emitted from vehicles, biomass burning and industry. An iodide time-of-flight chemical ionisation mass spectrometer (ToF-CIMS) and nitrate ToF-CIMS were deployed at the Jülich Plant Atmosphere Chamber as part of a series of experiments examining benzene oxidation by OH under high- and low-NOx conditions, where a range of organic oxidation products were detected. The nitrate scheme detects many oxidation products with high masses, ranging from intermediate volatile organic compounds (IVOCs) to extremely low volatile organic compounds (ELVOCs), including C12 dimers. In comparison, very few species with C≥6 and O≥8 were detected with the iodide scheme, which detected many more IVOCs and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) but very few ELVOCs and low volatile organic compounds (LVOCs). A total of 132 and 195 CHO and CHON oxidation products are detected by the iodide ToF-CIMS in the low- and high-NOx experiments respectively. Ring-breaking products make up the dominant fraction of detected signal and 21 and 26 of the products listed in the Master Chemical Mechanism (MCM) were detected. The time series of highly oxidised (O≥6) and ring-retaining oxidation products (C6 and double-bond equivalentD4) equilibrate quickly, characterised by a square form profile, compared to MCM and ring-breaking products which increase throughout oxidation, exhibiting sawtooth profiles. Under low-NOx conditions, all CHO formulae attributed to radical termination reactions of first-generation benzene products, and first-generation auto-oxidation products are observed. Several N-containing species that are either first-generation benzene products or first-generation auto-oxidation products are also observed under high-NOx conditions. Hierarchical cluster analysis finds four clusters, of which two describe photo-oxidation. Cluster 2 shows a negative dependency on the NO2/NOx ratio, indicating it is sensitive to NO concentration and thus likely to contain NO addition products and alkoxy-derived termination products. This cluster has the highest average carbon oxidation state (OSC/ and the lowest average carbon number. Where nitrogen is present in a cluster member of cluster 2, the oxygen number is even, as expected for alkoxy-derived products. In contrast, cluster 1 shows no dependency on the NO2/NOx ratio and so is likely to contain more NO2 addition and peroxy-derived termination products. This cluster contains fewer fragmented species, as the average carbon number is higher and OSC lower than cluster 2, and more species with an odd number of oxygen atoms. This suggests that clustering of time series which have features pertaining to distinct chemical regimes, for example, NO2/NOx perturbations, coupled with a priori knowledge, can provide insight into identification of potential functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3473–3490
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2021

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