Articles | Volume 12, issue 10
Research article
16 May 2012
Research article |  | 16 May 2012

Sulfuric acid nucleation: power dependencies, variation with relative humidity, and effect of bases

J. H. Zollner, W. A. Glasoe, B. Panta, K. K. Carlson, P. H. McMurry, and D. R. Hanson

Abstract. Nucleation of particles composed of sulfuric acid, water, and nitrogen base molecules was studied using a continuous flow reactor. The particles formed from these vapors were detected with an ultrafine condensation particle counter, while vapors of sulfuric acid and nitrogen bases were detected by chemical ionization mass spectrometry. Variation of particle numbers with sulfuric acid concentration yielded a power dependency on sulfuric acid of 5 ± 1 for relative humidities of 14–68% at 296 K; similar experiments with varying water content yielded power dependencies on H2O of ~7. The critical cluster contains about 5 H2SO4 molecules and a new treatment of the power dependency for H2O suggests about 12 H2O molecules for these conditions. Addition of 2-to-45 pptv of ammonia or methyl amine resulted in up to millions of times more particles than in the absence of these compounds. Particle detection capabilities, sulfuric acid and nitrogen base detection, wall losses, and the extent of particle growth are discussed. Results are compared to previous laboratory nucleation studies and they are also discussed in terms of atmospheric nucleation scenarios.

Final-revised paper