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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Coexistence of three liquid phases in individual atmospheric aerosol particles Huang, Yuanzhou


Individual atmospheric particles can contain mixtures of primary organic aerosol (POA), secondary organic aerosol (SOA), and secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA). To predict the role of such complex multicomponent particles in air quality and climate, information on the number and types of phases present in the particles is needed. However, the phase behavior of such particles has not been studied in the laboratory, and as a result, remains poorly constrained. Here we show that POA+SOA+SIA particles can often contain three distinct liquid phases: a low polarity organic-rich phase, a higher polarity organic-rich phase, and an aqueous inorganic-rich phase. Based on our results, when the elemental oxygen-to-carbon (O:C) ratio of the SOA is less than 0.8, which is common in the atmosphere, three liquid phases will often coexist within the same particle over a wide relative humidity range. In contrast, when the O:C ratio of the SOA is greater than 0.8, three phases will not form. We also demonstrate, using thermodynamic and kinetic modelling, that the presence of three liquid phases in such particles impacts their equilibration timescale with the surrounding gas phase and their ability to act as nuclei for liquid cloud droplets. Three phases will likely also impact the reactivity of these particles and the mechanism of SOA formation and growth in the atmosphere. These observations provide fundamental information necessary for improved predictions of air quality and aerosol indirect effects on climate.

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