Section 55
Chapter 54,825

Oxidation of carboxylic acids regenerates hydroxyl radicals in the unpolluted and nighttime troposphere

Da Silva, G.

Journal of Physical Chemistry. a 114(25): 6861-6869


ISSN/ISBN: 1520-5215
PMID: 20533840
DOI: 10.1021/jp101279p
Accession: 054824976

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The hydroxyl radical (OH) controls the removal of organic compounds from the troposphere. Atmospheric chemistry models significantly under-predict OH levels in unpolluted environments, implying that they are regenerated via some unknown mechanism(s). This work uses computational chemistry to demonstrate that the photochemical oxidation of alkyl carboxylic acids can efficiently regenerate the hydroxyl radical via unimolecular decomposition of alpha-carboxyalkylperoxy radicals. For acetic acid and propanoic acid the proposed mechanism is predicted to dominate in the unpolluted lower troposphere, and it may also operate to some extent in the mid to upper troposphere. Alkyl carboxylic acids are also predicted to act as a new source of nighttime OH throughout the planetary boundary layer, where OH levels are also under-predicted. The thermodynamic requirements for reactions of this class are discussed, and some candidate OH-reforming molecules particularly relevant to aromatic photooxidation are identified. Adopting a broader perspective, the alpha-carboxyalkyl radical precursors that react with O(2) to form the unstable alpha-carboxyalkylperoxy type radicals are also expected to form during combustion, in the interstellar medium, and from the gamma-irradiation of glycine and related amino acids, and the potential importance of this new chemistry in these environments is discussed. Master equation simulations suggest that alpha-carboxyalkyl + O(2) reactions provide a prompt OH source during the autoignition and combustion of biodiesel and other oxygenated biofuels, where carboxylic acids are formed as early stage oxidation products. Ketene combustion is also thought to proceed via these OH-reforming alpha-carboxyalkyl radicals. The in vivo formation of alpha-carboxyalkylperoxy radicals followed by oxidation to the highly reactive OH radical may induce oxidative stress in the human body, in a process initiated by gamma-rays. Finally, the reaction of ketenes with OH to form alpha-carboxyalkyl radicals, followed by addition of NH(2) or related species, is suggested as a new extraterrestrial pathway to amino acids.

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