Simulating Secondary Organic Aerosol Activation by Condensation of Multiple Organics on Seed Particles

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The conditions under which semivolatile organic gases condense were studied in a Teflon particle chamber by scanning mobility particle sizing (SMPS) of the resultant particles. Benzaldehyde, maleic and citraconic anhydrides, n-decane, trans-cinnamaldehyde, and citral were introduced in various combinations into a particle chamber containing either particle-free nitrogen or nitrogen with dry seed particles made out of sodium chloride, d-tartartic acid, ammonium sulfate, or 1,10-decanediol. No organic gas was allowed to reach its saturation point relative to the vapor pressure of its pure liquid in any experiment. In the absence of seed particles, organic aerosol particles formed by ternary nucleation when the sum of the individual organic saturation levels reached a threshold between 1.17 and 1.86. With seed particles present, particle sizes began to increase when the sum of organic saturation levels reached 1.0. This size increase corresponds to the establishment and activation of ternary organic layers on the “clean” seed particles, as predicted by absorption partitioning theory. The observed increases in particle volume depended on initial seed particle volume, indicating that either gas diffusion rates or chemical reactions were controlling the rate of uptake.