Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 5663-5683, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
29 Jun 2010
Surfactants in cloud droplet activation: mixed organic-inorganic particles
N. L. Prisle1,4, T. Raatikainen2, A. Laaksonen2,3, and M. Bilde4 1University of Helsinki, Department of Physics, P.O. Box 48, 00014, University of Helsinki, Finland
2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Erik Palmenin Aukio 1, 00101, Helsinki, Finland
3University of Kuopio, Department of Physics, P.O. Box 1627, 70211, Kuopio, Finland
4University of Copenhagen, Department of Chemistry, Universitetsparken 5, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark
Abstract. Organic compounds with surfactant properties are commonly found in atmospheric aerosol particles. Surface activity can significantly influence the cloud droplet forming ability of these particles. We have studied the cloud droplet formation by two-component particles comprising one of the organic surfactants sodium octanoate, sodium decanoate, sodium dodecanoate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate, mixed with sodium chloride. Critical supersaturations were measured with a static diffusion cloud condensation nucleus counter (Wyoming CCNC-100B). Results were modeled from Köhler theory applying three different representations of surfactant properties in terms of surfactant surface partitioning and reduced droplet surface tension. We here confirm previous results for single-component organic surfactant particles, that experimental critical supersaturations are greatly underpredicted, if reduced surface tension is used while ignoring the effects of surface partitioning in droplets. Furthermore, disregarding surfactant properties by ignoring surface partitioning and assuming the constant surface tension of pure water can also lead to significant underpredictions of experimental critical supersaturations. For the mixed particles comprising less than 50% by mass of surfactant, this approach however still provides a good description of the observed droplet activation. A comprehensive account for surfactant properties, including both surface tension reduction and effects of surface partitioning in activating droplets, generally predicts experimental critical supersaturations well.

Citation: Prisle, N. L., Raatikainen, T., Laaksonen, A., and Bilde, M.: Surfactants in cloud droplet activation: mixed organic-inorganic particles, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 5663-5683,, 2010.
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