Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
21 May 2015
Research article |  | 21 May 2015

Scanning supersaturation condensation particle counter applied as a nano-CCN counter for size-resolved analysis of the hygroscopicity and chemical composition of nanoparticles

Z. Wang, H. Su, X. Wang, N. Ma, A. Wiedensohler, U. Pöschl, and Y. Cheng

Abstract. Knowledge about the chemical composition of aerosol particles is essential to understand their formation and evolution in the atmosphere. Due to analytical limitations, however, relatively little information is available for sub-10 nm particles. We present the design of a nano-cloud condensation nuclei counter (nano-CCNC) for measuring size-resolved hygroscopicity and inferring chemical composition of sub-10 nm aerosol particles. We extend the use of counting efficiency spectra from a water-based condensation particle counter (CPC) and link it to the analysis of CCN activation spectra, which provides a theoretical basis for the application of a scanning supersaturation CPC (SS-CPC) as a nano-CCNC. Measurement procedures and data analysis methods are demonstrated through laboratory experiments with monodisperse particles of diameter down to 2.5 nm, where sodium chloride, ammonium sulfate, sucrose and tungsten oxide can be easily discriminated by different characteristic supersaturations of water droplet formation. A near-linear relationship between hygroscopicity parameter κ and organic mass fraction is also found for sucrose-ammonium sulfate mixtures. The design is not limited to the water CPC, but also applies to CPCs with other working fluids (e.g. butanol, perfluorotributylamine). We suggest that a combination of SS-CPCs with multiple working fluids may provide further insight into the chemical composition of nanoparticles and the role of organic and inorganic compounds in the initial steps of atmospheric new particle formation and growth.