Aqueous Photochemistry of Glyoxylic Acid

Alexis J. Eugene, Sha Sha Xia, Marcelo I. Guzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Aerosols affect climate change, the energy balance of the atmosphere, and public health due to their variable chemical composition, size, and shape. While the formation of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) from gas phase precursors is relatively well understood, studying aqueous chemical reactions contributing to the total SOA budget is the current focus of major attention. Field measurements have revealed that mono-, di-, and oxo-carboxylic acids are abundant species present in SOA and atmospheric waters. This work explores the fate of one of these 2-oxocarboxylic acids, glyoxylic acid, which can photogenerate reactive species under solar irradiation. Additionally, the dark thermal aging of photoproducts is studied by UV-visible and fluorescence spectroscopies to reveal that the optical properties are altered by the glyoxal produced. The optical properties display periodicity in the time domain of the UV-visible spectrum of chromophores with absorption enhancement (thermochromism) or loss (photobleaching) during nighttime and daytime cycles, respectively. During irradiation, excited state glyoxylic acid can undergo α-cleavage or participate in hydrogen abstractions. The use of 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) analysis shows that glyoxal is an important intermediate produced during direct photolysis. Glyoxal quickly reaches a quasi-steady state as confirmed by UHPLC-MS analysis of its corresponding (E) and (Z) 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazones. The homolytic cleavage of glyoxylic acid is proposed as a fundamental step for the production of glyoxal. Both carbon oxides, CO2(g) and CO(g) evolving to the gas-phase, are quantified by FTIR spectroscopy. Finally, formic acid, oxalic acid, and tartaric acid photoproducts are identified by ion chromatography (IC) with conductivity and electrospray (ESI) mass spectrometry (MS) detection and 1H NMR spectroscopy. A reaction mechanism is proposed based on all experimental observations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3817-3826
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number21
StatePublished - Jun 2 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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