Catalytic role of formaldehyde in particulate matter formation


Dovrou E, Bates KH, Moch JM, Mickley LJ, Jacob DJ, Keutsch FN. Catalytic role of formaldehyde in particulate matter formation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2022;119 (6).


Formaldehyde (HCHO), the simplest and most abundant carbonyl in the atmosphere, contributes to particulate matter (PM) formation via two in-cloud processing pathways. First, in a catalytic pathway, HCHO reacts with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to form hydroxymethyl hydroperoxide (HMHP), which rapidly oxidizes dissolved sulfur dioxide (SO2,aq) to sulfate, regenerating HCHO. Second, HCHO reacts with dissolved SO2,aq to form hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS), which upon oxidation with the hydroxyl radical (OH) forms sulfate and also reforms HCHO. Chemical transport model simulations using rate coefficients from laboratory studies of the reaction rate of HMHP with SO2,aq show that the HMHP pathways reduce the SO2 lifetime by up to a factor of 2 and contribute up to ∼18% of global sulfate. This contribution rises to >50% in isoprene-dominated regions such as the Amazon. Combined with recent results on HMS, this work demonstrates that the one-carbon molecules HMHP and HCHO contribute significantly to global PM, with HCHO playing a crucial catalytic role.


Publisher: National Academy of Sciences Section: Physical Sciences

Publisher's Version

Last updated on 02/04/2022