Surfactants in cloud droplet activation: mixed organic-inorganic particles
1University of Copenhagen, Department of Chemistry, Universitetsparken 5, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark
2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Erik Palmenin Aukio 1, 00101, Helsinki, Finland
3University of Kuopio, Department of Physics, P.O. Box 1627, 70211, Kuopio, Finland
Abstract. Organic compounds with surfactant properties are commonly found in atmospheric aerosol particles. Surface activity can significantly influence the cloud droplet forming ability of these particles. We have studied the cloud droplet formation by two-component particles comprising one of the organic surfactants sodium octanoate, sodium decanoate, sodium dodecanoate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate, mixed with sodium chloride. Critical supersaturations were measured with a static diffusion cloud condensation nucleus counter (Wyoming CCNC-100B). Results were modeled from Köhler theory applying three different representations of surfactant properties: (1) using concentration-dependent surface tension reduction during droplet growth and explicitly accounting for surfactant surface partitioning in both solute suppression (Raoult effect) and curvature enhancement (Kelvin effect) contributions to the droplet equilibrium water vapor supersaturation, (2) disregarding surfactant partitioning and using a concentration-dependent surface tension for the droplets corresponding to a macroscopic (bulk) aqueous solution of the same overall composition, and (3) disregarding surfactant properties and assuming the constant surface tension of pure water throughout droplet activation. We confirm previous results for single-component organic surfactant particles, that experimental critical supersaturations are greatly underpredicted, if reduced surface tension is applied in Köhler theory while ignoring the effects of surface partitioning in droplets. We further show that assuming the constant surface tension of pure water can also lead to significant underpredictions of experimental critical supersaturations. The full account for surfactant partitioning in activating droplets generally predicts experimental critical supersaturations well. In addition, for mixed particles comprising less than 50% by mass of surfactant, ignoring surfactant properties and simply using the constant surface tension of pure water also provides a good first-order approximation of the observed activation.