Role of Nucleation Mechanism on the Size Dependent Morphology of Organic Aerosol

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Muhammad Bilal Altaf, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, University Park, PA, United States and Miriam A Freedman, Penn State University, University Park, PA, United States
Cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activation is sensitive to the size, composition, and morphology of aerosol particles < 200 nm. The properties of particles can differ on the nanoscale compared to larger sizes, as observed in atmospheric chemistry for the crystallization of particles < 40 nm in diameter. We have applied cryogenic-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) for the study of the morphology of dry, submicron organic aerosol to explore whether nanoscale effects impact the morphology of particles. Specifically, we have characterized the morphology of the poly(ethylene glycol) 400 (PEG-400)/ammonium sulfate system. We have shown that depending on the composition of the system and the mechanism of phase separation (i.e. nucleation and growth vs. spinodal decomposition), a size dependence of morphology is observed. Since phase separation by nucleation and growth should be a common occurrence in the atmosphere, we expect the majority of phase separating atmospheric particles to have a size dependent morphology, which may have important implications for CCN activation. Size dependent morphology may impact the hygroscopic properties of these particles which can affect CCN concentrations and further influence cloud formation, reflectivity, and precipitation, which will have consequences for Earth’s radiation budget.