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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 2 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 1307-1323, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 31 Jan 2018

Research article | 31 Jan 2018

Resolving nanoparticle growth mechanisms from size- and time-dependent growth rate analysis

Lukas Pichelstorfer1, Dominik Stolzenburg2, John Ortega3, Thomas Karl4, Harri Kokkola5, Anton Laakso5, Kari E. J. Lehtinen5,6, James N. Smith7, Peter H. McMurry8, and Paul M. Winkler2 Lukas Pichelstorfer et al.
  • 1Division of Physics and Biophysics, Department of Materials Research and Physics, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
  • 2Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • 3Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4Institute for Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 5Finnish Meteorological Institute, Atmospheric Research Centre of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
  • 6Department of Applied Physics, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland
  • 7Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
  • 8Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Abstract. Atmospheric new particle formation occurs frequently in the global atmosphere and may play a crucial role in climate by affecting cloud properties. The relevance of newly formed nanoparticles depends largely on the dynamics governing their initial formation and growth to sizes where they become important for cloud microphysics. One key to the proper understanding of nanoparticle effects on climate is therefore hidden in the growth mechanisms. In this study we have developed and successfully tested two independent methods based on the aerosol general dynamics equation, allowing detailed retrieval of time- and size-dependent nanoparticle growth rates. Both methods were used to analyze particle formation from two different biogenic precursor vapors in controlled chamber experiments. Our results suggest that growth rates below 10nm show much more variation than is currently thought and pin down the decisive size range of growth at around 5nm where in-depth studies of physical and chemical particle properties are needed.

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Quantification of new particle formation as a source of atmospheric aerosol is clearly of importance for climate and health aspects. In our new study we developed two analysis methods that allow retrieval of nanoparticle growth dynamics at much higher precision than it was possible so far. Our results clearly demonstrate that growth rates show much more variation than is currently known and suggest that the Kelvin effect governs growth in the sub-10 nm size range.
Quantification of new particle formation as a source of atmospheric aerosol is clearly of...