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Journal article

Classifying organic materials by oxygen-to-carbon elemental ratio to predict the activation regime of Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN)

Kuwata M, Shao W, Lebouteiller R, Martin S...(+4 more)

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 13, issue 10 (2013) pp. 5309-5324

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The governing highly soluble, slightly soluble, or insoluble activation regime of organic compounds as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) was examined as a function of oxygen-to-carbon elemental ratio (O : C). New data were collected for adipic, pimelic, suberic, azelaic, and pinonic acids. Secondary organic materials (SOMs) produced by alpha-pinene ozonolysis and isoprene photo-oxidation were also included in the analysis. The saturation concentrations C of the organic compounds in aqueous solutions served as the key parameter for delineating regimes of CCN activation, and the values of C were tightly correlated to the O: C ratios. The highly soluble, slightly soluble, and insoluble regimes of CCN activation were found to correspond to ranges of [O : C] > 0.6, 0.2 < [O : C] < 0.6, and [O : C] < 0.2, respectively. These classifications were evaluated against CCN activation data of isoprene-derived SOM (O : C = 0.69-0.72) and alpha-pinene-derived SOM (O : C = 0.38-0.48). Isoprene-derived SOM had highly soluble activation behavior, consistent with its high O: C ratio. For alpha-pinene-derived SOM, although CCN activation can be modeled as a highly soluble mechanism, this behavior was not predicted by the O: C ratio, for which a slightly soluble mechanism was anticipated. Complexity in chemical composition, resulting in continuous water uptake and the absence of a deliquescence transition that can thermodynamically limit CCN activation, might explain the difference in the behavior of alpha-pinene-derived SOM compared to that of pure organic compounds. The present results suggest that atmospheric particles dominated by hydrocarbon-like organic components do not activate (i.e., insoluble regime) whereas those dominated by oxygenated organic components activate (i.e., highly soluble regime) for typical atmospheric cloud life cycles.

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