Formation and growth of sub-3-nm aerosol particles in experimental chambers.


Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. [Email]


Atmospheric new particle formation (NPF), which is observed in many environments globally, is an important source of boundary-layer aerosol particles and cloud condensation nuclei, which affect both the climate and human health. To better understand the mechanisms behind NPF, chamber experiments can be used to simulate this phenomenon under well-controlled conditions. Recent advancements in instrumentation have made it possible to directly detect the first steps of NPF of molecular clusters (~1-2 nm in diameter) and to calculate quantities such as the formation and growth rates of these clusters. Whereas previous studies reported particle formation rates as the flux of particles across a specified particle diameter or calculated them from measurements of larger particle sizes, this protocol outlines methods to directly quantify particle dynamics for cluster sizes. Here, we describe the instrumentation and analysis methods needed to quantify particle dynamics during NPF of sub-3-nm aerosol particles in chamber experiments. The methods described in this protocol can be used to make results from different chamber experiments comparable. The experimental setup, collection and post-processing of the data, and thus completion of this protocol, take from months up to years, depending on the chamber facility, experimental plan and level of expertise. Use of this protocol requires engineering capabilities and expertise in data analysis.

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