Reevaluating the contribution of sulfuric acid and the origin of organic compounds in atmospheric nanoparticle growth
Beukes, Johan Paul
Venter, Andrew D.
Van Zyl, Pieter G.
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Aerosol particles formed in the atmosphere are important to the Earth's climate system due to their ability to affect cloud properties. At present, little is known about the atmospheric chemistry responsible for the growth of newly formed aerosol particles to climate-relevant sizes. Here combining detailed aerosol measurements with a theoretical framework we found that depending on the gaseous precursors and size of the newly formed particles, the growth was dominated by either sulfuric acid accompanied by ammonium or organic compounds originating in either biogenic emissions or savannah fires. The contribution of sulfuric acid was larger during the early phases of the growth, but in clean conditions organic compounds dominated the growth from 1.5 nm up to climatically relevant sizes. Furthermore, our analysis indicates that in polluted environments the contribution of sulfuric acid to the growth may have been underestimated by up to a factor of 10