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Molecular identification of organic vapors driving atmospheric nanoparticle growth

Journal article
Authors Claudia Mohr
Joel A. Thornton
Arto Heitto
Felipe D. Lopez-Hilfiker
Anna Lutz
Ilona Riipinen
Juan Hong
Neil M. Donahue
Mattias Hallquist
Tuukka Petäjä
Markku Kulmala
Taina Yli-Juuti
Published in Nature communications
Volume 10
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-...
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41...
Subject categories Environmental Sciences, Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Environmental chemistry, Climate Research, Other Chemistry Topics, Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry

Abstract

Particles formed in the atmosphere via nucleation provide about half the number of atmospheric cloud condensation nuclei, but in many locations, this process is limited by the growth of the newly formed particles. That growth is often via condensation of organic vapors. Identification of these vapors and their sources is thus fundamental for simulating changes to aerosol-cloud interactions, which are one of the most uncertain aspects of anthropogenic climate forcing. Here we present direct molecular-level observations of a distribution of organic vapors in a forested environment that can explain simultaneously observed atmospheric nanoparticle growth from 3 to 50 nm. Furthermore, the volatility distribution of these vapors is sufficient to explain nanoparticle growth without invoking particle-phase processes. The agreement between observed mass growth, and the growth predicted from the observed mass of condensing vapors in a forested environment thus represents an important step forward in the characterization of atmospheric particle growth.

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