Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-645
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-645

  06 Sep 2021

06 Sep 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Ice nucleation activities of soot particles internally mixed with sulphuric acid at cirrus cloud conditions

Kunfeng Gao1,2,3, Chong-Wen Zhou1, Eszter J. Barthazy Meier4, and Zamin A. Kanji3 Kunfeng Gao et al.
  • 1School of Energy and Power Engineering, Beihang University, Beijing, China
  • 2Shenyuan Honours College of Beihang University, Beihang University, Beijing, China
  • 3Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4Scientific Centre for Optical and Electron Microscopy, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. Soot particles are important candidates for ice nucleating particles (INPs) in cirrus cloud formation which is known to exert a warming effect on climate. Bare soot particles, generally hydrophobic and fractal, mainly exist near emission sources. Coated or internally mixed soot particles are more abundant in the atmosphere and have a higher probability to impact cloud formation and climate. However, the ice nucleation ability of coated soot particles is not as well understood as that of freshly produced soot particles. In this study, two samples, a propane (C3H8) flame soot and a commercial carbon black were coated with varying wt % of sulphuric acid (H2SO4). The ratio of coating material mass to the mass of bare soot particle was controlled and progressively increased from less than 5 wt % to over 100 wt %. Both bare and coated soot particle ice nucleation activities were investigated with a continuous flow diffusion chamber operated at mixed-phase and cirrus cloud conditions. The mobility size and mass distribution of size selected soot particles with/without H2SO4 coating were measured by a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) and a centrifugal particle mass analyser (CPMA) running in parallel. The mixing state and morphology of soot particles were characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). In addition, the evidence for the presence of H2SO4 on coated soot particle surface is shown by Energy Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX). Our study demonstrates that H2SO4 coatings suppress the ice nucleation activity of soot particles to varying degrees depending on the coating thickness, but in a non-linear fashion. Thin coatings causing pore filling in the soot-aggregate inhibits pore condensation and freezing (PCF). Thick coatings promote particle ice activation via droplet homogeneous freezing. Overall, our findings reveal that H2SO4 coatings will suppress soot particle ice nucleation abilities in the cirrus cloud regime, having implications for the fate of soot particles with respect to cloud formation in the upper troposphere.

Kunfeng Gao et al.

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Kunfeng Gao et al.

Kunfeng Gao et al.

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Short summary
Incomplete combustion of fossil fuel produces carbonaceous particles called soot. These particles can affect cloud formation by acting as centres for droplet or ice formation. The atmospheric residence time of soot particles is on the order of days to weeks which can result in them becoming coated by various trace species in the atmosphere such as acids. In this study, we quantify the cirrus cloud forming ability of soot particles coated with the atmospherically ubiquitous sulphuric acid.
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