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Published July 21, 2013 | Published
Journal Article Open

Gas-particle partitioning of atmospheric aerosols: interplay of physical state, non-ideal mixing and morphology


Atmospheric aerosols, comprising organic compounds and inorganic salts, play a key role in air quality and climate. Mounting evidence exists that these particles frequently exhibit phase separation into predominantly organic and aqueous electrolyte-rich phases. As well, the presence of amorphous semi-solid or glassy particle phases has been established. Using the canonical system of ammonium sulfate mixed with organics from the ozone oxidation of α-pinene, we illustrate theoretically the interplay of physical state, non-ideality, and particle morphology affecting aerosol mass concentration and the characteristic timescale of gas–particle mass transfer. Phase separation can significantly affect overall particle mass and chemical composition. Semi-solid or glassy phases can kinetically inhibit the partitioning of semivolatile components and hygroscopic growth, in contrast to the traditional assumption that organic compounds exist in quasi-instantaneous gas–particle equilibrium. These effects have significant implications for the interpretation of laboratory data and the development of improved atmospheric air quality and climate models.

Additional Information

© 2013 the Owner Societies. Received 14 Apr 2013, Accepted 29 May 2013. First published online 29 May 2013. This work was funded by US National Science Foundation grant AGS-1057183. MS was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Fellowship for Research Abroad.

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