Nitric Acid-Amine Chemistry in the Gas Phase and at the Air-Water Interface

Manoj Kumar, Hao Li, Xiuhui Zhang, Xiao Cheng Zeng, Joseph S. Francisco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Gas-phase simulations of nitric acid-amine chemistry suggest that the fundamental acid-base interaction between HNO3 and NH3 results in a variety of HNO3-NH3-based complexes, such as (HNO3)3·(NH3)2, (HNO3)3·(NH3)3, and (HNO3)4·(NH3)3, that can be formed. The formation of these complexes in the gas phase follow different growth mechanisms under different relative humidity conditions. On the other hand, at the air-water interface, Born-Oppenheimer molecular dynamics simulations suggest that the formation of the fundamental NO3-··(R1)(R2)NH2+ [for NH3, R1 = R2 = H; CH3NH2, R1 = H, R2 = CH3; and (CH3)2NH, R1 = R2 = CH3] ion pairs require the formation of the HNO3··(R1)(R2)NH complexes in the gas-phase prior to their adsorption on the water surface. Ion-pair formation at the water surface involves proton transfer from HNO3 to (R1)(R2)NH and occurs within a few femtoseconds of the simulation. The NO3-··(R1)(R2)NH2+ ion pairs preferentially remain at the interface over the picosecond time scale, where they are stabilized via hydrogen bonding with surface water molecules. This offers a novel chemical framework for understanding gas-to-particle partitioning in the atmosphere. These results not only improve our understanding of the formation of nitrate particulates in polluted urban environments, but also provide useful guidelines for understanding particle formation in forested or coastal environments, in which organic acids and organosulfates are present in significant quantities and their exact role in particle formation remains elusive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6456-6466
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 23 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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