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Surfactants in cloud droplet activation: mixed organic-inorganic particles

by N. L. Prisle, T. Raatikainen, A. Laaksonen, M. Bilde
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()


Organic compounds with surfactant properties are commonly found in atmospheric aerosol particles. Surface activity can significantly influence the cloud droplet forming ability of these particles. We have studied the cloud droplet formation by two-component particles comprising one of the organic surfactants sodium octanoate, sodium decanoate, sodium dodecanoate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate, mixed with sodium chloride. Critical supersaturations were measured with a static diffusion cloud condensation nucleus counter (Wyoming CCNC-100B). Results were modeled from Kohler theory applying three different representations of surfactant properties in terms of surfactant surface partitioning and reduced droplet surface tension. We here confirm previous results for single-component organic surfactant particles, that experimental critical supersaturations are greatly underpredicted, if reduced surface tension is used while ignoring the effects of surface partitioning in droplets. Furthermore, disregarding surfactant properties by ignoring surface partitioning and assuming the constant surface tension of pure water can also lead to significant underpredictions of experimental critical supersaturations. For the mixed particles comprising less than 50% by mass of surfactant, this approach however still provides a good description of the observed droplet activation. A comprehensive account for surfactant properties, including both surface tension reduction and effects of surface partitioning in activating droplets, generally predicts experimental critical supersaturations well.

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