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Title: Liquid-liquid phase separation in aerosol particles: Imaging at the Nanometer Scale

Atmospheric aerosols can undergo phase transitions including liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) while responding to changes in the ambient relative humidity (RH). Here, we report results of chemical imaging experiments using environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) and scanning transmission x-ray microscopy (STXM) to investigate the LLPS of micron sized particles undergoing a full hydration-dehydration cycle. Internally mixed particles composed of ammonium sulfate (AS) and either: limonene secondary organic carbon (LSOC), a, 4-dihydroxy-3-methoxybenzeneaceticacid (HMMA), or polyethylene glycol (PEG-400) were studied. Events of LLPS with apparent core-shell particle morphology were observed for all samples with both techniques. Chemical imaging with STXM showed that both LSOC/AS and HMMA/AS particles were never homogeneously mixed for all measured RH’s above the deliquescence point and that the majority of the organic component was located in the shell. The shell composition was estimated as 65:35 organic: inorganic in LSOC/AS and as 50:50 organic: inorganic for HMMA/AS. PEG-400/AS particles showed fully homogeneous mixtures at high RH and phase separated below 89-92% RH with an estimated 50:50% organic to inorganic mix in the shell. These two chemical imaging techniques are well suited for in-situ analysis of the hygroscopic behavior, phase separation, and surface composition of collected ambient aerosol particles.
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
47937; 48272
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Science & Technology, 49(8):4995-5002
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
Liquid-liquid phase separation; STXM/NEXAFS; ESEM; limonene SOA; Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory