Department of Chemistry
Characterizing Organosulfate Compounds in Atmospheric Aerosols
The Earth's atmosphere is a giant reactor where a wide range of chemical reactions occur. The atmosphere's role as a reactor is crucial in regulating the Earth's climate, as it determines the concentrations of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that affect the planet's radiative balance. Organosulfates are organic compounds that contain one or more sulfate groups (-OSO3H) attached to a carbon-based molecule. Their formation involves reactions between volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and their oxidation products. Organosulfates play an important role in the chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere, particularly in the formation of secondary organic aerosols that contribute to air pollution and climate change.
We have realized the first concise chemical synthesis of nitrooxy organosulfates derived from terpenes, providing much needed authentic standards, the lack of which had hindered the study of their atmospheric chemistry. The availability of authentic standards has enabled us to reveal the definitive existence of previously unrecognized transformation pathways in the formation, and to quantify reliably their different extent of presence in four Chinese cities.
Our ambient measurements indicate that anthropogenic chemical factors could outcompete terpene emissions from nature in the formation of these nitrooxy organosulfate. Results and findings from our work add significant new knowledge that facilitates understanding of interactions between biosphere and anthroposphere. Such chemistry knowledge and understanding form a crucial part of the foundation for developing effective strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts of air pollution and climate change.
Conceptual depiction of formation chemistry of organosulfates in the atmosphere
First synthesis of terpene-derived nitrooxy organosulfates provides indispensable standards to study multifunctional air pollutants formed between anthropogenic pollution and natural emissions.
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- Chair Professor, Department of Chemistry
- Chair Professor, Division of Environment and Sustainability
- Director of Atmospheric Research Center
- RPG Programs Coordinator (Environment and Sustainability)
- Co-Director of HKUST ENVF-INA/LMA Joint Laboratory on Environment
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