Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
11 Jun 2009
 | 11 Jun 2009

A new thermal gradient ice nucleation diffusion chamber instrument: design, development and first results using Saharan mineral dust

G. Kulkarni, S. Dobbie, and J. B. McQuaid

Abstract. A new Thermal Gradient ice nucleation Diffusion Chamber (TGDC) capable of investigating ice nucleation efficiency of atmospherically important aerosols, termed Ice Nuclei (IN), has been designed, constructed and validated. The TGDC can produce a range of supersaturations with respect to ice (SSi) over the temperature range of −10 to −34°C for sufficiently long time needed to observe the ice nucleation by the particles. The novel aspect of this new TGDC is that the chamber is run in static mode with aerosol particles supported on a Teflon substrate, which can be raised and lowered in a controlled way through the SSi profile within the chamber, and nucleation events are directly observed using digital photography. The TGDC consists of two ice coated plates to which a thermal gradient is applied to produce the range of SSi. The design of the TGDC gives the ability to understand time-related ice nucleation event information and to perform experiments at different temperatures and SSi conditions for different IN without changing the thermal gradient within the TGDC. The temperature and SSi conditions of the experimental system are validated by observing (NH4)2SO4 deliquescence and the results are in good agreement with the literature data. First results are presented of the onset ice nucleation for mineral dust sampled from the Saharan Desert, including images of nucleation and statistical distributions of onset ice nucleation SSi as a function of temperature. This paper illustrates how useful this new TGDC is for process level studies of ice nucleation and more experimental investigations are needed to better quantify the role of ice formation in the atmosphere.