1Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland
2Department of Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 91125, California, USA
Received: 11 Oct 2011 – Published in Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.: 28 Oct 2011
Abstract. Knowledge of the physical state and morphology of internally mixed organic/inorganic aerosol particles is still largely uncertain. To obtain more detailed information on liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) and morphology of the particles, we investigated complex mixtures of atmospherically relevant dicarboxylic acids containing 5, 6, and 7 carbon atoms (C5, C6 and C7) having oxygen-to-carbon atomic ratios (O:C) of 0.80, 0.67, and 0.57, respectively, mixed with ammonium sulfate (AS). With micrometer-sized particles of C5/AS/H2O, C6/AS/H2O and C7/AS/H2O as model systems deposited on a hydrophobically coated substrate, laboratory experiments were conducted for various organic-to-inorganic dry mass ratios (OIR) using optical microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. When exposed to cycles of relative humidity (RH), each system showed significantly different phase transitions. While the C5/AS/H2O particles showed no LLPS with OIR = 2:1, 1:1 and 1:4 down to 20% RH, the C6/AS/H2O and C7/AS/H2O particles exhibit LLPS upon drying at RH 50 to 85% and ~90%, respectively, via spinodal decomposition, growth of a second phase from the particle surface or nucleation-and-growth mechanisms depending on the OIR. This suggests that LLPS commonly occurs within the range of O:C < 0.7 in tropospheric organic/inorganic aerosols. To support the comparison and interpretation of the experimentally observed phase transitions, thermodynamic equilibrium calculations were performed with the AIOMFAC model. For the C7/AS/H2O and C6/AS/H2O systems, the calculated phase diagrams agree well with the observations while for the C5/AS/H2O system LLPS is predicted by the model at RH below 60% and higher AS concentration, but was not observed in the experiments. Both core-shell structures and partially engulfed structures were observed for the investigated particles, suggesting that such morphologies might also exist in tropospheric aerosols.
Revised: 28 Feb 2012 – Accepted: 06 Mar 2012 – Published: 13 Mar 2012
Citation: Song, M., Marcolli, C., Krieger, U. K., Zuend, A., and Peter, T.: Liquid-liquid phase separation and morphology of internally mixed dicarboxylic acids/ammonium sulfate/water particles, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 2691-2712, doi:10.5194/acp-12-2691-2012, 2012.