Aldehydes are common constituents of natural and polluted atmospheres, and their gas-phase oxidation has recently been reported to yield highly oxygenated organic molecules (HOMs) that are key players in the formation of atmospheric aerosol. However, insights into the molecular-level mechanism of this oxidation reaction have been scarce. While OH initiated oxidation of small aldehydes, with two to ﬁve carbon atoms, under high-NOx conditions generally leads to fragmentation products, longer-chain aldehydes involving an initial non-aldehydic hydrogen abstraction can be a path to molecular functionalization and growth. In this work, we conduct a joint theoretical–experimental analysis of the autoxidation chain reaction of a common aldehyde, hexanal. We computationally study the initial steps of OH oxidation at the RHF-RCCSD(T)-F12a/VDZ-F12//ωB97X-D/aug-cc-pVTZ level and show that both aldehydic (on C1) and non-aldehydic (on C4) H-abstraction channels contribute to HOMs via autoxidation. The oxidation products predominantly form through the H abstraction from C1 and C4, followed by fast unimolecular 1,6 H-shifts with rate coefﬁcients of 1.7 × 10−1 and 8.6 × 10−1 s−1, respectively. Experimental ﬂow reactor measurements at variable reaction times show that hexanal oxidation products including HOM monomers up to C6H11O7 and accretion products C12H22O9−10 form within 3 s reaction time. Kinetic modeling simulations including atmospherically relevant precursor concentrations agree with the experimental results and the expected timescales. Finally, we estimate the hexanal HOM yields up to seven O atoms with mechanistic details through both C1 and C4 channels.
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