Articles | Volume 10, issue 16
24 Aug 2010
 | 24 Aug 2010

Computation of liquid-liquid equilibria and phase stabilities: implications for RH-dependent gas/particle partitioning of organic-inorganic aerosols

A. Zuend, C. Marcolli, T. Peter, and J. H. Seinfeld

Abstract. Semivolatile organic and inorganic aerosol species partition between the gas and aerosol particle phases to maintain thermodynamic equilibrium. Liquid-liquid phase separation into an organic-rich and an aqueous electrolyte phase can occur in the aerosol as a result of the salting-out effect. Such liquid-liquid equilibria (LLE) affect the gas/particle partitioning of the different semivolatile compounds and might significantly alter both particle mass and composition as compared to a one-phase particle. We present a new liquid-liquid equilibrium and gas/particle partitioning model, using as a basis the group-contribution model AIOMFAC (Zuend et al., 2008). This model allows the reliable computation of the liquid-liquid coexistence curve (binodal), corresponding tie-lines, the limit of stability/metastability (spinodal), and further thermodynamic properties of multicomponent systems. Calculations for ternary and multicomponent alcohol/polyol-water-salt mixtures suggest that LLE are a prevalent feature of organic-inorganic aerosol systems. A six-component polyol-water-ammonium sulphate system is used to simulate effects of relative humidity (RH) and the presence of liquid-liquid phase separation on the gas/particle partitioning. RH, salt concentration, and hydrophilicity (water-solubility) are identified as key features in defining the region of a miscibility gap and govern the extent to which compound partitioning is affected by changes in RH. The model predicts that liquid-liquid phase separation can lead to either an increase or decrease in total particulate mass, depending on the overall composition of a system and the particle water content, which is related to the hydrophilicity of the different organic and inorganic compounds. Neglecting non-ideality and liquid-liquid phase separations by assuming an ideal mixture leads to an overestimation of the total particulate mass by up to 30% for the composition and RH range considered in the six-component system simulation. For simplified partitioning parametrizations, we suggest a modified definition of the effective saturation concentration, Cj*, by including water and other inorganics in the absorbing phase. Such a Cj* definition reduces the RH-dependency of the gas/particle partitioning of semivolatile organics in organic-inorganic aerosols by an order of magnitude as compared to the currently accepted definition, which considers the organic species only.

Final-revised paper