Articles | Volume 6, issue 11
04 Aug 2006
04 Aug 2006

Ice nucleation in sulfuric acid/organic aerosols: implications for cirrus cloud formation

M. R. Beaver, M. J. Elrod, R. M. Garland, and M. A. Tolbert

Abstract. Using an aerosol flow tube apparatus, we have studied the effects of aliphatic aldehydes (C3 to C10) and ketones (C3 and C9) on ice nucleation in sulfuric acid aerosols. Mixed aerosols were prepared by combining an organic vapor flow with a flow of sulfuric acid aerosols over a small mixing time (~60 s) at room temperature. No acid-catalyzed reactions were observed under these conditions, and physical uptake was responsible for the organic content of the sulfuric acid aerosols. In these experiments, aerosol organic content, determined by a Mie scattering analysis, was found to vary with the partial pressure of organic, the flow tube temperature, and the identity of the organic compound. The physical properties of the organic compounds (primarily the solubility and melting point) were found to play a dominant role in determining the inferred mode of nucleation (homogenous or heterogeneous) and the specific freezing temperatures observed. Overall, very soluble, low-melting organics, such as acetone and propanal, caused a decrease in aerosol ice nucleation temperatures when compared with aqueous sulfuric acid aerosol. In contrast, sulfuric acid particles exposed to organic compounds of eight carbons and greater, of much lower solubility and higher melting temperatures, nucleate ice at temperatures above aqueous sulfuric acid aerosols. Organic compounds of intermediate carbon chain length, C4-C7, (of intermediate solubility and melting temperatures) nucleated ice at the same temperature as aqueous sulfuric acid aerosols. Interpretations and implications of these results for cirrus cloud formation are discussed.

Final-revised paper