Influence of gas-to-particle partitioning on the hygroscopic and droplet activation behaviour of alpha-pinene secondary organic aerosol

Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2009 Sep 28;11(36):8091-7. doi: 10.1039/b904162a. Epub 2009 Aug 5.


Hygroscopic properties of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formed by photooxidation of different concentrations (10-27 or 220-270 ppb) of alpha-pinene precursor were investigated at different relative humidities (RH) using a hygroscopicity tandem differential mobility analyzer (HTDMA, RH=95-97%) and using the mobile version of the Leipzig Aerosol Cloud Interaction Simulator (LACIS-mobile, RH=98-99.3%). In addition, the cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity was measured applying two CCN counters (CCNC). An apparent single-hygroscopicity parameter, kappa, of approximately 0.09, approximately 0.07-0.13, and approximately 0.02-0.04 was derived from CCNC, HTDMA and LACIS data, respectively, assuming the surface tension of pure water. Closure between HTDMA and CCNC data was achieved within experimental uncertainty, whereas closure between LACIS and CCNC was only achieved by assuming a concentration-dependent surface tension reduction, consequently resulting in lower CCNC-derived kappa values. Comparing different experimental techniques at varying precursor concentrations in more detail reveals further open questions. Varying precursor concentration influences hygroscopic growth factors at subsaturated RH, while it has no effect on the CCN activation. This difference in behaviour might be caused by precursor concentration-dependent surface tension depression or changing droplet solution concentration dependence of the water activity coefficient with varying SOA composition. Furthermore, evidence was found that the SOA might need several seconds to reach the equilibrium growth factor at high RH.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / chemistry*
  • Atmosphere / chemistry*
  • Gases / chemistry
  • Models, Chemical
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry*
  • Phase Transition
  • Wettability


  • Aerosols
  • Gases
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Particulate Matter