Interfacial Carbonyl Groups of Propylene Carbonate and Diethyl Sebacate Facilitate the Reversible Binding of Nitrogen Dioxide

01 April 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The interaction of NO2 with organic interfaces is critical in the development of NO2 sensing and trapping technologies, and equally so to the atmospheric processing of marine and continental aerosol. Recent studies point to the importance of surface oxygen groups in these systems, however the role of specific functional groups on the microscopic level has yet to be fully established. In the present study, we aim to provide fundamental information on the behavior of NO2 at atmospherically relevant organic interfaces that may also help inform innovation in NO2 sensing and trapping development. We then present an investigation into the structural changes induced by NO2 at the surface of propylene carbonate (PC), an environmentally relevant carbonate ester. Surface-sensitive spectra of the PC liquid surface are acquired before, during, and after exposure to NO2 using infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS). Spectra reveal that NO2 preferentially interacts with the carbonyl of PC at the interface, forming a distribution of binding symmetries. At low ppm levels, NO2 saturates the PC surface within 10 minutes and the perturbations to the surface are constant over time during the flow of NO2. Upon removal of NO2 flow, and under atmospheric pressures, these interactions are reversible, and the liquid surface structure of PC recovers completely within 30 min. Another ester-containing molecule, diethyl sebacate (DES), was also investigated and the same carbonyl-specific interaction with NO2 was intermittently observed.


infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy
gas-liquid interface
organic aerosol

Supplementary materials

Supplemental Information for Interfacial Carbonyl Groups of Propylene Carbonate and Diethyl Sebacate Facilitate the Reversible Binding of Nitrogen Dioxide
Supplemental information provides additional details on the determination of nitrogen dioxide concentration, spectral pre-processing, peak assignments, ATR-FTIR experiments, and the determination of water content in propylene carbonate using Raman spectroscopy.


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