There is increasing evidence that aqueous-phase atmospheric chemistry is an important source of secondary organic aerosols (SOA), but the related processes are currently not adequately represented in atmospheric chemistry models. Here we show that the absorption spectrum of pyruvic acid (PA) exhibits both an increase of the absorption intensity and a red shift of 13 nm while going from a dilute aqueous phase to a solution containing the inert salt sodium perchlorate (5M NaClO4). If this phenomenon turns out to be more general, many compounds that do not absorb actinic light in clouds and fog could become light absorbers at elevated salt concentrations in aerosol deliquescent particles. Compared to the direct photolysis of PA in dilute aqueous solution, the photolysis rate is increased by three times at high ionic strength (5M NaClO4). Such a considerable enhancement can be rationalized in the framework of the Debye-McAulay approach for reactions of ionic + neutral (or neutral + neutral) species, considering that the PA direct photolysis likely involves interaction between the photogenerated triplet state and water. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of a significant effect of the ionic strength on the rate of an atmospheric photochemical reaction. The phenomenon has important implications for the fate of PA and, potentially, of other organic compounds in atmospheric aerosol deliquescent particles. Click here to continue reading

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