Recent progress in understanding particle nucleation and growth

F. L. Eisele, P. H. McMurry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


In the past half decade, several new tools have become available for investigating particle nucleation and growth. A number of joint field and laboratory studies exploiting some of these new measurement capabilities will be described and new insights shared. The ability to measure OH, SO2, H2SO4 and aerosol number and size distributions has made possible a comparison between H2SO4 production and loss onto particles in continental air masses. In regions remote from urban emissions, agreement is typically quite good. In contrast, joint field measurements of nucleation precursors such as gas phase H2SO4 and ultrafine particles suggest that classical bimolecular nucleation theory may not properly described the tropospheric nucleation process. An alternative mechanism, possibly involving ammonia as a stabilizing agent for H2SO4/H2O molecular clusters is discussed. Finally, ultrafine particle measurements are shown to offer new opportunities for studying particle growth rates. Preliminary results suggest that in a remote continental air mass, gas phase H2SO4 uptake is far too slow to explain observed growth rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1350
StatePublished - 1997

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