On the Wall

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Science  18 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6181, pp. 237
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6181.237-b

Aerosols exert a major influence on air quality and the radiative properties of the atmosphere, so deciphering how they form is central to understanding pollution control and climate change. Secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) make up a major fraction of these particles, but their formation is particularly under-constrained. Most of what we know about their mechanism of formation comes from laboratory studies done in enclosed chambers, but these studies generally detect SOA formation at rates much too low to explain their atmospheric abundances. Zhang et al. report experimental results that show that the deposition of oxidized vapors on the chamber walls can substantially reduce estimates of the rate of formation of SOAs measured in such environments, by a factor of as much as 4. Correcting for such effects would help reconcile chamber experimental results and observations made in the atmosphere, without the need to invoke other factors such as missing precursors, as some other work has done.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 10.1073/pnas.1404727111 (2014).

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