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Investigation of the effect of organics on the water uptake of marine aerosols

Queensland University of Technology
Publication Date
  • Marine Aerosols
  • Water Uptake
  • Hygroscopic Growth
  • Vh-Tdma
  • Atmospheric Aerosols
  • Organic Aerosols
  • Sea Spray Aerosols
  • Sulphate Aerosols
  • Atmospheric New Particle Formation
  • Nucleation Events
  • Nucleation Mode
  • Aitken Mode
  • Accumulation Mode
  • Aerosol Composition
  • Volatility
  • Htdma
  • Deliquescence
  • Water Uptake Suppression
  • Organic Films
  • Bubble Chamber


Water uptake refers to the ability of atmospheric particles to take up water vapour from the surrounding atmosphere. This is an important property that affects particle size and phase and therefore influences many characteristics of aerosols relevant to air quality and climate. However, the water uptake properties of many important atmospheric aerosol systems, including those related to the oceans, are still not fully understood. Therefore, the primary aim of this PhD research program was to investigate the water uptake properties of marine aerosols. In particular, the effect of organics on marine aerosol water uptake was investigated. Field campaigns were conducted at remote coastal sites on the east coast of Australia (Agnes Water; March-April 2007) and west coast of Ireland (Mace Head; June 2007), and laboratory measurements were performed on bubble-generated sea spray aerosols. A combined Volatility-Hygroscopicity-Tandem Differential Mobility Analyser (VH-TDMA) was employed in all experiments. This system probes the changes in the hygroscopic properties of nanoparticles as volatile organic components are progressively evaporated. It also allows particle composition to be inferred from combined volatility-hygroscopicity measurements. Frequent new particle formation and growth events were observed during the Agnes Water campaign. The VH-TDMA was used to investigate freshly nucleated particles (17-22.5 nm) and it was found that the condensation of sulphate and/or organic vapours was responsible for driving particle growth during the events. Aitken mode particles (~40 nm) were also measured with the VH-TDMA. In 3 out of 18 VH-TDMA scans evaporation of a volatile, organic component caused a very large increase in hygroscopicity that could only be explained by an increase in the absolute water uptake of the particle residuals, and not merely an increase in their relative hygroscopicity. This indicated the presence of organic components that were suppressing the hygroscopic growth of mixed particles on the timescale of humidification in the VH-TDMA (6.5 secs). It was suggested that the suppression of water uptake was caused by either a reduced rate of hygroscopic growth due to the presence of organic films, or organic-inorganic interactions in solution droplets that had a negative effect on hygroscopicity. Mixed organic-inorganic particles were rarely observed by the VH-TDMA during the summer campaign conducted at Mace Head. The majority of particles below 100 nm in clean, marine air appeared to be sulphates neutralised to varying degrees by ammonia. On one unique day, 26 June 2007, particularly large concentrations of sulphate aerosol were observed and identified as volcanic emissions from Iceland. The degree of neutralisation of the sulphate aerosol by ammonia was calculated by the VH-TDMA and found to compare well with the same quantity measured by an aerosol mass spectrometer. This was an important verification of the VH-TMDA‘s ability to identify ammoniated sulphate aerosols based on the simultaneous measurement of aerosol volatility and hygroscopicity. A series of measurements were also conducted on sea spray aerosols generated from Moreton Bay seawater samples in a laboratory-based bubble chamber. Accumulation mode sea spray particles (38-173 nm) were found to contain only a minor organic fraction (< 10%) that had little effect on particle hygroscopicity. These results are important because previous studies have observed that accumulation mode sea spray particles are predominantly organic (~80% organic mass fraction). The work presented here suggests that this is not always the case, and that there may be currently unknown factors that are controlling the transfer of organics to the aerosol phase during the bubble bursting process. Taken together, the results of this research program have significantly improved our understanding of organic-containing marine aerosols and the way they interact with water vapour in the atmosphere.

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