Cryo-transmission electron microscopy imaging of the morphology of submicrometer aerosol containing organic acids and ammonium sulfate

Daniel P. Veghte, Danielle Rae Bittner, Miriam Arak Freedman

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30 Scopus citations


The effects of aerosol particles on heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry and climate are determined in part by the internal arrangement of compounds within the particles. To characterize the morphology of internally mixed aerosol particles in the accumulation mode size regime, we have used cryo-transmission electron microscopy to investigate the phase separation behavior of dry, submicrometer particles composed of ammonium sulfate mixed with carboxylic acids (adipic, azelaic, citric, glutaric, malonic, pimelic, suberic, and succinic acid). Determining the morphology of dry particles is important for understanding laboratory studies of aerosol optical properties, reactivity, and cloud condensation nucleus activity, results from field instruments where aerosol particles are dried prior to analysis, and atmospheric processes like deposition mode heterogeneous ice nucleation that occur on dried particles. We observe homogeneous morphologies for highly soluble organic compounds. For organic compounds with limited aqueous solubility, partially engulfed structures are observed. At intermediate aqueous solubilities, small particles are homogeneous and larger particles are partially engulfed. Results are compared to previous studies of liquid-liquid phase separation in supermicrometer particles and the impact of these dry particle morphologies on aerosol-climate interactions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2436-2442
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 4 2014


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry

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