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Measurement of the nucleation of atmospheric aerosol particles

Abstract

The formation of new atmospheric aerosol particles and their subsequent growth have been observed frequently at various locations all over the world. The atmospheric nucleation rate (or formation rate) and growth rate (GR) are key parameters to characterize the phenomenon. Recent progress in measurement techniques enables us to measure atmospheric nucleation at the size (mobility diameter) of 1.5 (±0.4) nm. The detection limit has decreased from 3 to 1 nm within the past 10 years. In this protocol, we describe the procedures for identifying new-particle-formation (NPF) events, and for determining the nucleation, formation and growth rates during such events under atmospheric conditions. We describe the present instrumentation, best practices and other tools used to investigate atmospheric nucleation and NPF at a certain mobility diameter (1.5, 2.0 or 3.0 nm). The key instruments comprise devices capable of measuring the number concentration of the formed nanoparticles and their size, such as a suite of modern condensation particle counters (CPCs) and air ion spectrometers, and devices for characterizing the pre-existing particle number concentration distribution, such as a differential mobility particle sizer (DMPS). We also discuss the reliability of the methods used and requirements for proper measurements and data analysis. The time scale for realizing this procedure is 1 year.

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Figure 1: The size ranges of different measurement techniques, organized by the development time of the instrument.
Figure 2
Figure 3: The twin-DMPS system in Hyytiälä.
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6: New particle formation event observed in Hyytiälä on 26 March 2011.
Figure 7: Growth rate determination by the maximum-concentration method.
Figure 8: Particle growth rate determined by the mode-fitting method.
Figure 9
Figure 10: NPF event on 28 April 2011 in Hyytiälä.
Figure 11: Smoothed aerosol size distribution for 15–16 April 2004.
Figure 12: Regions of interest (ROIs) for the regional NPF detection.
Figure 13: Automatically detected regional NPF events.

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Acknowledgements

Financial support from a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced grant (ATM-NUCLE, 227463); an ERC Starting grant (ATMOGAIN); Academy of Finland projects 211483, 211484 and 1118615, 139656, 251427; the Norden Top Level Research Initiative 'Cryosphere-Atmosphere Interactions in a Changing Arctic Climate' (CRAICC); and the European Union (Aerosols, Clouds and Trace gases Research InfraStructure Network (ACTRIS)) are gratefully acknowledged.

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All authors contributed to the writing and planning of the paper. M.K. and V.-M.K. were responsible for the INTRODUCTION. T.P., M.S., H.E.M., K.L., M.K. and P.P.A. were responsible for the section on 'Requirements for measuring nucleation of atmospheric aerosol particles'. With regard to the 'Procedure overview', MATERIALS, and PROCEDURE sections and associated Supplementary Methods, T.N., M.D.M., H.J., P.P., I.R. and A.L. were responsible for the event analysis; T.N., M.D.M., I.R., K.E.J.L. and H.J. were responsible for nanoparticle GRs; V.-M.K., K.E.J.L., T.N., K.L., M.D.M., P.P. and M.K. were responsible for nucleation and formation rates; and M.K., T.P., P.P., V.-M.K., M.S., I.R. and A.L. were responsible for the overall structure of sections. T.P., M.S. and M.K. were responsible for the TROUBLESHOOTING section. T.N., M.K., H.E.M. and K.L. were responsible for the ANTICIPATED RESULTS section.

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Correspondence to Markku Kulmala.

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Kulmala, M., Petäjä, T., Nieminen, T. et al. Measurement of the nucleation of atmospheric aerosol particles. Nat Protoc 7, 1651–1667 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nprot.2012.091

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