X-Ray Microspectroscopic Investigations of Remote Aerosol Composition and Changes in Aerosol Microstructure and Phase State upon Hydration
Abstract:Atmospheric aerosols play a crucial role in the Earth’s climate system and hydrological cycle by scattering and absorbing sunlight and affecting the formation and development of clouds and precipitation. Our research focuses on aerosols in remote regions, in order to characterize the properties and sources of natural aerosol particles and the extent of human perturbations of the aerosol burden.
The phase and mixing state of atmospheric aerosols, and particularly their hygroscopic response to relative humidity (RH) variations, is a central determinant of their atmospheric life cycle and impacts. We present an investigation using X-ray microspectroscopy on submicrometer aerosols under variable RH conditions, showing in situ changes in morphology, microstructure, and phase state upon humidity cycling. We applied Scanning Transmission X-ray Microscopy with Near-Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure spectroscopy (STXM-NEXAFS) under variable RH conditions to standard aerosols for a validation of the experimental approach and to internally mixed aerosol particles from the Amazonian rain forest collected during periods with anthropogenic pollution. The measurements were conducted at X-ray microscopes at the synchrotron facilities Advanced Light Source (ALS) in Berkeley, USA, and BESSY II in Berlin, Germany.
Upon hydration, we observed substantial and reproducible changes in microstructure of the Amazonian particles (internal mixture of secondary organic material, ammoniated sulfate, and soot), which appear as mainly driven by efflorescence and recrystallization of sulfate salts. Multiple solid and liquid phases were found to coexist, especially in intermediate humidity regimes (60-80% RH). This shows that X-ray microspectroscopy under variable RH is a valuable technique to analyze the hygroscopic response of individual ambient aerosol particles. Our initial results underline that RH changes can trigger strong particle restructuring, in agreement with previous studies on artificial aerosols.