Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Giuseppe A. Petrucci


Aerosols play important roles in atmospheric and environmental processes. Not only do they impact human health, they also affect visibility and climate. Despite recent advances made to under their sources and fate, there remains a limited understanding of the mechanisms that lead to the formation of aerosols and their ultimate fate in the atmosphere. These knowledge gaps provide the crux of the research reported herein, which has focused on identifying novel sources of atmospheric aerosol, characterizing its physical and optical properties, and rationalizing these properties using an in-depth knowledge of the molecular level mechanisms that led to its formation.

Upon mowing, turfgrasses emit large amounts of green leaf volatiles which can then be oxidized by ozone to form SOA. Overall, the mowing of lawns has the potential to contribute nearly 50 µg SOA per square meter of lawn mowed. This SOA contribution is on the same order of magnitude as other predominant SOA sources (isoprene, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes).

Turfgrasses represent an interesting and potentially meaningful SOA source because they contribute to SOA and also because they cover large land areas in close proximity to oxidant sources. Another related SOA precursor is sugarcane, which is in the same family as turfgrass and is among the largest agricultural crops worldwide. Globally, the ozonolysis of sugarcane has the potential to contribute 16 Mg SOA to the atmosphere, compared to global estimates of SOA loading that range from 12-70 Tg SOA.

In order to fully understand the role of atmospheric SOA on the radiative budget (and therefore climate), it is also important to understand its optical properties; its ability to absorb vs scatter light. Turfgrass and sugarcane produced SOA that was weakly absorbing while its scatter efficiency was wavelength and size-dependent. Interestingly, SOA formed under both dry (10% RH) and wet (70% RH) conditions had the same bulk chemical properties (O:C), yet significantly different optical properties, which was attributed to differences in molecular-level composition.

The work presented herein represents a unique, inclusive study of SOA precursors. A complete understanding of the chemistry leading to SOA formation is used to understand its physical and optical properties and evaluate these large-scale effects of SOA from these precursors.



Number of Pages

240 p.