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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 19 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 9113-9133, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-12-9113-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 05 Oct 2012

Research article | 05 Oct 2012

On the formation of sulphuric acid – amine clusters in varying atmospheric conditions and its influence on atmospheric new particle formation

P. Paasonen1,2, T. Olenius1, O. Kupiainen1, T. Kurtén3, T. Petäjä1, W. Birmili4, A. Hamed5, M. Hu6, L. G. Huey7, C. Plass-Duelmer8, J. N. Smith5,9, A. Wiedensohler4, V. Loukonen1, M. J. McGrath1,10, I. K. Ortega1, A. Laaksonen5,11, H. Vehkamäki1, V.-M. Kerminen1, and M. Kulmala1 P. Paasonen et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria
  • 3Department of Chemistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany
  • 5Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
  • 6State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China
  • 7School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA
  • 8Hohenpeissenberg Meteorological Observatory, German Meteorological Service, Germany
  • 9National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 10Department of Biophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
  • 11Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Sulphuric acid is a key component in atmospheric new particle formation. However, sulphuric acid alone does not form stable enough clusters to initiate particle formation in atmospheric conditions. Strong bases, such as amines, have been suggested to stabilize sulphuric acid clusters and thus participate in particle formation. We modelled the formation rate of clusters with two sulphuric acid and two amine molecules (JA2B2) at varying atmospherically relevant conditions with respect to concentrations of sulphuric acid ([H2SO4]), dimethylamine ([DMA]) and trimethylamine ([TMA]), temperature and relative humidity (RH). We also tested how the model results change if we assume that the clusters with two sulphuric acid and two amine molecules would act as seeds for heterogeneous nucleation of organic vapours (other than amines) with higher atmospheric concentrations than sulphuric acid. The modelled formation rates JA2B2 were functions of sulphuric acid concentration with close to quadratic dependence, which is in good agreement with atmospheric observations of the connection between the particle formation rate and sulphuric acid concentration. The coefficients KA2B2 connecting the cluster formation rate and sulphuric acid concentrations as JA2B2=KA2B2[H2SO4]2 turned out to depend also on amine concentrations, temperature and relative humidity. We compared the modelled coefficients KA2B2 with the corresponding coefficients calculated from the atmospheric observations (Kobs) from environments with varying temperatures and levels of anthropogenic influence. By taking into account the modelled behaviour of JA2B2 as a function of [H2SO4], temperature and RH, the atmospheric particle formation rate was reproduced more closely than with the traditional semi-empirical formulae based on sulphuric acid concentration only. The formation rates of clusters with two sulphuric acid and two amine molecules with different amine compositions (DMA or TMA or one of both) had different responses to varying meteorological conditions and concentrations of vapours participating in particle formation. The observed inverse proportionality of the coefficient Kobs with RH and temperature agreed best with the modelled coefficient KA2B2 related to formation of a cluster with two H2SO4 and one or two TMA molecules, assuming that these clusters can grow in collisions with abundant organic vapour molecules. In case this assumption is valid, our results suggest that the formation rate of clusters with at least two of both sulphuric acid and amine molecules might be the rate-limiting step for atmospheric particle formation. More generally, our analysis elucidates the sensitivity of the atmospheric particle formation rate to meteorological variables and concentrations of vapours participating in particle formation (also other than H2SO4).

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