Aerosol microphysics: from molecules to the chemical physics of aerosols

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Aerosols are found in a wide diversity of contexts and applications, including the atmosphere, pharmaceutics, and industry. Aerosols are dispersions of particles in a gas, and the coupling of the two phases results in highly dynamic systems where chemical and physical properties like size, composition, phase, and refractive index change rapidly in response to environmental perturbations. Aerosol particles span a wide range of sizes from 1 nm to tens of micrometres or from small molecular clusters that may more closely resemble gas phase molecules to large particles that can have similar qualities to bulk materials. However, even large particles with finite volumes exhibit distinct properties from the bulk condensed phase, due in part to their higher surface-to-volume ratio and their ability to easily access supersaturated solute states inaccessible in the bulk. Aerosols represent a major challenge for study because of the facile coupling between the particle and gas, the small amounts of sample available for analysis, and the sheer breadth of operative processes. Time scales of aerosol processes can be as short as nanoseconds or as long as years. Despite their very different impacts and applications, fundamental chemical physics processes serve as a common theme that underpins our understanding of aerosols. This perspective article discusses challenges in the study of aerosols and highlights recent chemical physics advancements that have enabled improved understanding of these complex systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number220901
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number22
Early online date1 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2017


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