Articles | Volume 3, issue 3
19 May 2003
19 May 2003

Organic acids as cloud condensation nuclei: Laboratory studies of highly soluble and insoluble species

P. Pradeep Kumar, K. Broekhuizen, and J. P. D. Abbatt

Abstract. The ability of sub-micron-sized organic acid particles to act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) has been examined at room temperature using a newly constructed continuous-flow, thermal-gradient diffusion chamber (TGDC). The organic acids studied were: oxalic, malonic, glutaric, oleic and stearic. The CCN properties of the highly soluble acids - oxalic, malonic and glutaric - match very closely Köhler theory predictions which assume full dissolution of the dry particle and a surface tension of the growing droplet equal to that of water. In particular, for supersaturations between 0.3 and 0.6, agreement between the dry particle diameter which gives 50% activation and that calculated from Köhler theory is to within 3nm on average. In the course of the experiments, considerable instability of glutaric acid particles was observed as a function of time and there is evidence that they fragment to some degree to smaller particles. Stearic acid and oleic acid, which are both highly insoluble in water, did not activate at supersaturations of 0.6% with dry diameters up to 140nm. Finally, to validate the performance of the TGDC, we present results for the activation of ammonium sulfate particles that demonstrate good agreement with Köhler theory if solution non-ideality is considered. Our findings support earlier studies in the literature that showed highly soluble organics to be CCN active but insoluble species to be largely inactive.

Final-revised paper