Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
12 Feb 2007
12 Feb 2007

Non-volatile residuals of newly formed atmospheric particles in the boreal forest

M. Ehn, T. Petäjä, W. Birmili, H. Junninen, P. Aalto, and M. Kulmala

Abstract. The volatility of sub-micrometer atmospheric aerosol particles was studied in a rural background environment in Finland using a combination of a heating tube and a scanning mobility particle sizer. The analysis focused on nanoparticles formed through nucleation which were subsequently observed during their growth in the diameter range between 5 and 60 nm. During the 6 days of new particle formation shown in detail, the concentrations of newly formed particles increased up to 10 000 cm−3. The number of nucleation mode particles measured after volatilization in the heating tube at 280°C was up to 90% of the total number under ambient conditions. Taking into account the absolute accuracy of the size distribution measurements, all ambient particles found in the rural atmosphere could have a non-volatile core after volatilization at 280°C. As the regional new particle formation events developed over time as a result of further vapor condensation, the newly formed particles grew at an average growth rate of 2.4±0.3 nm h−1. Importantly, the non-volatile cores of nucleation mode particles were also observed to grow over time, however, at a lower average growth rate of 0.6±0.3 nm h−1. One implication of the volatility analysis is that the newly formed particles, which have reached ambient diameters of 15 nm, are unlikely to consist of sulfuric acid, ammonium sulfate, and water alone. A relatively constant ratio between the growth rate of the ambient particles as well as their non-volatile cores indicates that non-volatile matter is formed only gradually in the growing particles. The non-volatile fraction of the particles showed some correlation with the ambient temperature. The composition and formation mechanism of this non-volatile material in nucleation mode particles are, to date, not known.

Final-revised paper