Approach for Measuring the Chemistry of Individual Particles in the Size Range Critical for Cloud Formation

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, United States.
Analytical Chemistry (Impact Factor: 5.83). 02/2011; 83(6):2271-8. DOI: 10.1021/ac103152g
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Aerosol particles, especially those ranging from 50 to 200 nm, strongly impact climate by serving as nuclei upon which water condenses and cloud droplets form. However, the small number of analytical methods capable of measuring the composition of particles in this size range, particularly at the individual particle level, has limited our knowledge of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) composition and hence our understanding of aerosols effect on climate. To obtain more insight into particles in this size range, we developed a method which couples a growth tube (GT) to an ultrafine aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometer (UF-ATOFMS), a combination that allows in situ measurements of the composition of individual particles as small as 38 nm. The growth tube uses water to grow particles to larger sizes so they can be optically detected by the UF-ATOFMS, extending the size range to below 100 nm with no discernible changes in particle composition. To gain further insight into the temporal variability of aerosol chemistry and sources, the GT-UF-ATOFMS was used for online continuous measurements over a period of 3 days.

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