Production of Formate via Oxidation of Glyoxal Promoted by Particulate Nitrate Photolysis

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

22 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5711–5720
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
Online published16 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021


Particulate nitrate photolysis can produce oxidants (i.e., OH, NO2, and NO2-/HNO2) in aqueous droplets and may play a potential role in increased atmospheric oxidative capacity. Our earlier works have reported on the SO2 oxidation promoted by nitrate photolysis to produce sulfate. Here, we used glyoxal as a model precursor to examine the role of particulate nitrate photolysis in the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) from particle-phase oxidation of glyoxal by OH radicals. Particles containing sodium nitrate and glyoxal were irradiated at 300 nm. Interestingly, typical oxidation products of oxalic acid, glyoxylic acid, and higher-molecular-weight products reported in the literature were not found in the photooxidation process of glyoxal during nitrate photolysis in the particle phase. Instead, formic acid/formate production was found as the main oxidation product. At glyoxal concentration higher than 3 M, we found that the formic acid/formate production rate increases significantly with increasing glyoxal concentration. Such results suggest that oxidation of glyoxal at high concentrations by OH radicals produced from nitrate photolysis in aqueous particles may not contribute significantly to SOA formation since formic acid is a volatile species. Furthermore, recent predictions of formic acid/formate concentration from the most advanced chemical models are lower than ambient observations at both the ground level and high altitude. The present study reveals a new insight into the production of formic acid/formate as well as a sink of glyoxal in the atmosphere, which may partially narrow the gap between model predictions and field measurements in both species.