Single-particle characterization of ice-nucleating particles and ice particle residuals sampled by three different techniques
Abstract. In the present work, three different techniques to separate ice-nucleating particles (INPs) as well as ice particle residuals (IPRs) from non-ice-active particles are compared. The Ice Selective Inlet (ISI) and the Ice Counterflow Virtual Impactor (Ice-CVI) sample ice particles from mixed-phase clouds and allow after evaporation in the instrument for the analysis of the residuals. The Fast Ice Nucleus Chamber (FINCH) coupled with the Ice Nuclei Pumped Counterflow Virtual Impactor (IN-PCVI) provides ice-activating conditions to aerosol particles and extracts the activated particles for analysis. The instruments were run during a joint field campaign which took place in January and February 2013 at the High Alpine Research Station Jungfraujoch (Switzerland). INPs and IPRs were analyzed offline by scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis to determine their size, chemical composition and mixing state. Online analysis of the size and chemical composition of INP activated in FINCH was performed by laser ablation mass spectrometry. With all three INP/IPR separation techniques high abundances (median 20–70%) of instrumental contamination artifacts were observed (ISI: Si-O spheres, probably calibration aerosol; Ice-CVI: Al-O particles; FINCH + IN-PCVI: steel particles). After removal of the instrumental contamination particles, silicates, Ca-rich particles, carbonaceous material and metal oxides were the major INP/IPR particle types obtained by all three techniques. In addition, considerable amounts (median abundance mostly a few percent) of soluble material (e.g., sea salt, sulfates) were observed. As these soluble particles are often not expected to act as INP/IPR, we consider them as potential measurement artifacts. Minor types of INP/IPR include soot and Pb-bearing particles. The Pb-bearing particles are mainly present as an internal mixture with other particle types. Most samples showed a maximum of the INP/IPR size distribution at 200–400 nm in geometric diameter. In a few cases, a second supermicron maximum was identified. Soot/carbonaceous material and metal oxides were present mainly in the sub-micrometer range. Silicates and Ca-rich particles were mainly found with diameters above 1 μm (using ISI and FINCH), in contrast to the Ice-CVI which also sampled many submicron particles of both groups. Due to changing meteorological conditions, the INP/IPR composition was highly variable if different samples were compared. Thus, the observed discrepancies between the different separation techniques may partly result from the non-parallel sampling. The differences of the particle group relative number abundance as well as the mixing state of INP/IPR clearly demonstrate the need of further studies to better understand the influence of the separation techniques on the INP/IPR chemical composition. Also, it must be concluded that the abundance of contamination artifacts in the separated INP and IPR is generally large and should be corrected for, emphasizing the need for the accompanying chemical measurements. Thus, further work is needed to allow for routine operation of the three separation techniques investigated.