Articles | Volume 9, issue 12
18 Jun 2009
 | 18 Jun 2009

Towards closing the gap between hygroscopic growth and activation for secondary organic aerosol: Part 1 – Evidence from measurements

H. Wex, M. D. Petters, C. M. Carrico, E. Hallbauer, A. Massling, G. R. McMeeking, L. Poulain, Z. Wu, S. M. Kreidenweis, and F. Stratmann

Abstract. Secondary Organic Aerosols (SOA) studied in previous laboratory experiments generally showed only slight hygroscopic growth, but a much better activity as a CCN (Cloud Condensation Nucleus) than indicated by the hygroscopic growth. This discrepancy was examined at LACIS (Leipzig Aerosol Cloud Interaction Simulator), using a portable generator that produced SOA particles from the ozonolysis of α-pinene, and adding butanol or butanol and water vapor during some of the experiments. The light scattering signal of dry SOA-particles was measured by the LACIS optical particle spectrometer and was used to derive a refractive index for SOA of 1.45. LACIS also measured the hygroscopic growth of SOA particles up to 99.6% relative humidity (RH), and a CCN counter was used to measure the particle activation. SOA-particles were CCN active with critical diameters of e.g. 100 nm and 55 nm at super-saturations of 0.4% and 1.1%, respectively. But only slight hygroscopic growth with hygroscopic growth factors ≤1.05 was observed at RH<98% RH. At RH>98%, the hygroscopic growth increased stronger than would be expected if a constant hygroscopicity parameter for the particle/droplet solution was assumed. An increase of the hygroscopicity parameter by a factor of 4–6 was observed in the RH-range from below 90% to 99.6%, and this increase continued for increasingly diluted particle solutions for activating particles. This explains an observation already made in the past: that the relation between critical super-saturation and dry diameter for activation is steeper than what would be expected for a constant value of the hygroscopicity. Combining measurements of hygroscopic growth and activation, it was found that the surface tension that has to be assumed to interpret the measurements consistently is greater than 55 mN/m, possibly close to that of pure water, depending on the different SOA-types produced, and therefore only in part accounts for the discrepancy between hygroscopic growth and CCN activity observed for SOA particles in the past.

Final-revised paper