Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 7, 5341-5364, 2007
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Modelling the cloud condensation nucleus activity of organic acids
Z. Varga1, G. Kiss2, and H.-C. Hansson3
1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Pannonia, Egyetem u. 10, 8200 Veszprém, Hungary
2Air Chemistry Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, University of Pannonia, P.O. Box 158, 8201 Veszprém, Hungary
3Institute of Applied Environmental Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, 10691, Sweden

Abstract. In this study vapour pressure osmometry was used to determine water activity in solutions of organic acids. The surface tension of the solutions was also monitored in parallel and then Köhler curves were calculated for nine organic acids (oxalic, malonic, succinic, glutaric, adipic acid, maleic acid, malic acid, citric acid and pinonic acid). Surface tension depression is negligible for most of the organic acids in dilute (≤1 w/w%) solutions. Therefore, these compounds affect the supersaturation only in the beginning phase of droplet formation but not necessarily at the critical size. An exception is cis-pinonic acid which remarkably depress surface tension also in dilute (0.1 w/w%) solution and hence at the critical point. The surface tension of organic acid solutions is influenced by the solubility of the compound, the length of the carbon chain and also by the polar functional groups present in the molecule. Similarly to surface tension solubility plays an important role also in water activity: compounds with higher solubility (e.g. malonic, maleic, and glutaric acid) reduce water activity significantly in the early phase of droplet formation while less soluble acids (e.g. succinic and adipic acid) are saturated in small droplets and the solution starts diluting only in bigger droplets. As a consequence, compounds with lower solubility have a minor effect on water activity in the early phase of droplet formation. To deduce the total effect Köhler curves were calculated and critical supersaturations were determined for the organic acids using measured surface tension and water activity. It was found that critical supersaturation grew with growing carbon number. Oxalic acid had the lowest critical supersaturation in the size range studied and it was comparable to the activation of ammonium sulfate. The Sc values obtained in this study were compared to data from CCNC measurements. In most cases good agreement was found.

Citation: Varga, Z., Kiss, G., and Hansson, H.-C.: Modelling the cloud condensation nucleus activity of organic acids, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 7, 5341-5364, doi:10.5194/acpd-7-5341-2007, 2007.
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