Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Research article
15 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 15 Jun 2015

A technique for quantifying heterogeneous ice nucleation in microlitre supercooled water droplets

T. F. Whale, B. J. Murray, D. O'Sullivan, T. W. Wilson, N. S. Umo, K. J. Baustian, J. D. Atkinson, D. A. Workneh, and G. J. Morris

Abstract. In many clouds, the formation of ice requires the presence of particles capable of nucleating ice. Ice-nucleating particles (INPs) are rare in comparison to cloud condensation nuclei. However, the fact that only a small fraction of aerosol particles can nucleate ice means that detection and quantification of INPs is challenging. This is particularly true at temperatures above about −20 °C since the population of particles capable of serving as INPs decreases dramatically with increasing temperature. In this paper, we describe an experimental technique in which droplets of microlitre volume containing ice-nucleating material are cooled down at a controlled rate and their freezing temperatures recorded. The advantage of using large droplet volumes is that the surface area per droplet is vastly larger than in experiments focused on single aerosol particles or cloud-sized droplets. This increases the probability of observing the effect of less common, but important, high-temperature INPs and therefore allows the quantification of their ice nucleation efficiency. The potential artefacts which could influence data from this experiment, and other similar experiments, are mitigated and discussed. Experimentally determined heterogeneous ice nucleation efficiencies for K-feldspar (microcline), kaolinite, chlorite, NX-illite, Snomax® and silver iodide are presented.