Articles | Volume 10, issue 23
Research article
03 Dec 2010
Research article |  | 03 Dec 2010

Irreversible loss of ice nucleation active sites in mineral dust particles caused by sulphuric acid condensation

R. C. Sullivan, M. D. Petters, P. J. DeMott, S. M. Kreidenweis, H. Wex, D. Niedermeier, S. Hartmann, T. Clauss, F. Stratmann, P. Reitz, J. Schneider, and B. Sierau

Abstract. During the FROST-2 (FReezing Of duST) measurement campaign conducted at the Leipzig Aerosol Cloud Interaction Simulator (LACIS), we investigated changes in the ice nucleation properties of 300 nm Arizona Test Dust mineral particles following thermochemical processing by varying amounts and combinations of exposure to sulphuric acid vapour, ammonia gas, water vapour, and heat. The processed particles' heterogeneous ice nucleation properties were determined in both the water subsaturated and supersaturated humidity regimes at −30 °C and −25 °C using Colorado State University's continuous flow diffusion chamber. The amount of sulphuric acid coating material was estimated by an aerosol mass spectrometer and from CCN-derived hygroscopicity measurements. The condensation of sulphuric acid decreased the dust particles' ice nucleation ability in proportion to the amount of sulphuric acid added. Heating the coated particles in a thermodenuder at 250 °C – intended to evaporate the sulphuric acid coating – reduced their freezing ability even further. We attribute this behaviour to accelerated acid digestion of ice active surface sites by heat. Exposing sulphuric acid coated dust to ammonia gas produced particles with similarly poor freezing potential; however a portion of their ice nucleation ability could be restored after heating in the thermodenuder. In no case did any combination of thermochemical treatments increase the ice nucleation ability of the coated mineral dust particles compared to unprocessed dust. These first measurements of the effect of identical chemical processing of dust particles on their ice nucleation ability under both water subsaturated and mixed-phase supersaturated cloud conditions revealed that ice nucleation was more sensitive to all coating treatments in the water subsaturated regime. The results clearly indicate irreversible impairment of ice nucleation activity in both regimes after condensation of concentrated sulphuric acid. This implies that the sulphuric acid coating caused permanent chemical and/or physical modification of the ice active surface sites; the possible dissolution of the coating during droplet activation did not restore all immersion/condensation-freezing ability.

Final-revised paper