Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 2691-2712, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
13 Mar 2012
Liquid-liquid phase separation and morphology of internally mixed dicarboxylic acids/ammonium sulfate/water particles
M. Song1, C. Marcolli1, U. K. Krieger1, A. Zuend2, and T. Peter1 1Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland
2Department of Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 91125, California, USA
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.

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,, 2012.
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