Sulfur trioxide (SO3) is one of the most active chemical species in the atmosphere, and its atmospheric fate has profound implications to air quality and human health. The dominant gas-phase loss pathway for SO3 is generally believed to be the reaction with water molecules, resulting in sulfuric acid. The latter is viewed as a critical component in the new particle formation (NPF). Herein, a new and competitive loss pathway for SO3 in the presence of abundant gas-phase ammonia (NH3) species is identified. Specifically, the reaction between SO3 and NH3, which produces sulfamic acid, can be self-catalyzed by the reactant (NH3). In dry and heavily polluted areas with relatively high concentrations of NH3, the effective rate constant for the bimolecular SO3-NH3 reaction can be sufficiently fast through this new loss pathway for SO3 to become competitive with the conventional loss pathway for SO3 with water. Furthermore, this study shows that the final product of the reaction, namely, sulfamic acid, can enhance the fastest possible rate of NPF from sulfuric acid and dimethylamine (DMA) by about a factor of 2. An alternative source of stabilizer for acid-base clustering in the atmosphere is suggested, and this new mechanism for NPF has potential to improve atmospheric modeling in highly polluted regions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry