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Investigating parameters governing liquid-phase cloud activation of atmospheric particles

  • Dalirian, Maryam
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2018
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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Aerosol-cloud interactions are one of the main sources of uncertainties in modeling and predicting the Earth’s climate. To overcome this uncertainty, we need to improve the understanding about the processes and parameters defining how aerosol particles turn into cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) or ice nuclei (IN) to produce cloud droplets or ice crystals. The focus of this dissertation is on liquid phase cloud droplets. The thesis investigates the effect of water solubility and surface tension on the CCN activity of atmospheric aerosol particles. These parameters are among the key properties defining how an aerosol particle can turn into a cloud droplet. The main goals of this thesis are to investigate 1) the CCN activity of aerosol particles containing both water soluble and insoluble substances and 2) the contribution of molecular-scale surface structure to the surface tension and CCN activity of atmospherically relevant aqueous mixtures. In the first part of this thesis, the CCN activity of water-insoluble aerosol constituents coated by water-soluble or sparingly soluble species was investigated. The results showed that the CCN activity of the insoluble silica and black carbon particles, with sizes between 100 and 300 nm, increased with the amount of the coating on the insoluble cores and at thick enough coating approached the CCN activity of the soluble species. Moreover, controlled dry coating of the insoluble BC cores yielded a size-independent distribution of the coating material on the insoluble cores, which was not achieved by wet coating of the silica particles. The results also confirmed that by knowing the fraction of soluble material (coating thicknesses), the existing theories gave a reasonable estimate of the CCN activity for the mixed soluble-insoluble particles. Finally, the results highlight the need for including the impacts of co-emitted or later condensed compounds in estimates of the climate impacts of atmospheric insoluble aerosol species. In the second part of the thesis, surface propensity of succinic acid, pure or mixed with soluble inorganic salts in the aqueous droplets, were quantified via molecular-level surface composition measurement by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS). The XPS and molecular dynamic (MD) simulations of succinic acid aqueous solutions showed strong enrichment of the succinic acid at the surface of the liquid droplets compared to the bulk solution. This effect was more pronounced in the presence of the highly soluble inorganic salts like NaCl and (NH4)2SO4 in the system. The modeled surface tension of the pure organic or mixture of organic and inorganic substances, using surface enrichment factors derived from the XPS experiments were in good agreement with the experimental surface tension data. This demonstrates the high potential of XPS for direct measurements of the surface composition of atmospherically relevant aqueous mixtures. The results suggest that for modeling the phase-state and water content of the atmospheric particles, the contribution by the surface layer needs to be considered, because aqueous droplet can contain larger amounts of organic compounds than the bulk solubility limit of the solutions. However, the effect of the aqueous surface composition on the CCN activation of particles consisting of the studied mixtures was estimated to be very small. The results presented in this thesis provide new insights into the relationship between aerosol particle composition and cloud condensation nuclei activity. However, the effect of more realistic complex mixtures will require more research. The results showed that for modeling semi-volatile species, the partitioning between the gas and condensed phase needs to be considered. In addition, along with the liquid-phase cloud activation, the ice nucleation ability of the particles made of soluble and insoluble species requires to be further investigated.

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