IMS-MS and IMS-IMS Investigation of the Structure and Stability of Dimethylamine-Sulfuric Acid Nanoclusters

Hui Ouyang, Siqin He, Carlos Larriba-Andaluz, Christopher J. Hogan

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27 Scopus citations


Recent studies of new particle formation events in the atmosphere suggest that nanoclusters (i.e, the species formed during the early stages of particle growth which are composed of 101-103 molecules) may consist of amines and sulfuric acid. The physicochemical properties of sub-10 nm amine-sulfuric acid clusters are hence of interest. In this work, we measure the density, thermostability, and extent of water uptake of <8.5 nm effective diameter dimethylamine-sulfuric (DMAS) nanoclusters in the gas phase, produced via positive electrospray ionization. Specifically, we employ three systems to investigate DMAS properties: ion mobility spectrometry (IMS, with a parallel-plate differential mobility analyzer) is coupled with mass spectrometry to measure masses and collision cross sections for <100 kDa positively charged nanoclusters, two differential mobility analyzers in series (IMS-IMS) are used to examine thermostability, and finally a differential mobility analyzer coupled to an atmospheric pressure drift tube ion mobility spectrometer (also IMS-IMS) is used for water uptake measurements. IMS-MS measurements reveal that dry DMAS nanoclusters have densities of ∼1567 kg/m3 near 300 K, independent of the ratio of dimethylamine to sulfuric acid originally present in the electrospray solution. IMS-IMS thermostability studies reveal that partial pressures of DMAS nanoclusters are dependent upon the electrospray solution concentration ratio, R = [H2SO4]/[(CH3)2NH]. Extrapolating measurements, we estimate that dry DMAS nanoclusters have surface vapor pressures of order 10-4 Pa near 300 K, with the surface vapor pressure increasing with increasing values of R through most of the probed concentration range. This suggests that nanocluster surface vapor pressures are substantially enhanced by capillarity effects (the Kelvin effect). Meanwhile, IMS-IMS water uptake measurements show clearly that DMAS nanoclusters uptake water at relative humidities beyond 10% near 300 K, and that larger clusters uptake water to a larger extent. In total, our results suggest that dry DMAS nanoclusters (in the 5-8.5 nm size range in diameter) would not be stable under ambient conditions; however, DMAS nanoclusters would likely be hydrated in the ambient (in some cases above 20% water by mass), which could serve to reduce surface vapor pressures and stabilize them from dissociation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2026-2036
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 12 2015

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© 2015 American Chemical Society.


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