Comparing the mechanism of water condensation and evaporation in glassy aerosol

David L. Bones, Jonathan P. Reid, Daniel M. Lienhard, Ulrich K. Krieger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

162 Citations (Scopus)


Atmospheric models generally assume that aerosol particles are in equilibrium with the surrounding gas phase. However, recent observations that secondary organic aerosols can exist in a glassy state have highlighted the need to more fully understand the kinetic limitations that may control water partitioning in ambient particles. Here, we explore the influence of slow water diffusion in the condensed aerosol phase on the rates of both condensation and evaporation, demonstrating that significant inhibition in mass transfer occurs for ultraviscous aerosol, not just for glassy aerosol. Using coarse mode (3-4 um radius) ternary sucrose/sodium chloride/aqueous droplets as a proxy for multicomponent ambient aerosol, we demonstrate that the timescale for particle equilibration correlates with bulk viscosity and can be >> 10(3) s. Extrapolation of these timescales to particle sizes in the accumulation mode (e. g., approximately 100 nm) by applying the Stokes-Einstein equation suggests that the kinetic limitations imposed on mass transfer of water by slow bulk phase diffusion must be more fully investigated for atmospheric aerosol. Measurements have been made on particles covering a range in dynamic viscosity from <0.1 to >10(13) Pa s. We also retrieve the radial inhomogeneities apparent in particle composition during condensation and evaporation and contrast the dynamics of slow dissolution of a viscous core into a labile shell during condensation with the slow percolation of water during evaporation through a more homogeneous viscous particle bulk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11613-11618
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2012


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