Three liquid phases discovered in aerosol particles

It could better explain how air pollutants interact with the atmosphere.


Aerosol particles play a vital role in air quality. These particles contribute to poor air quality and absorb and reflect solar radiation, affecting the climate system. Nevertheless, how these particles behave remains uncertain.

In 2012, it was found that the aerosol particles have two liquid phases. Now, a discovery claims that there are three liquid phases in aerosol particles. This discovery, made by scientists from the University of British Columbia, could change our understanding of air pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere.

According to scientists, three liquid phases could form atmospheric particles if the particles consisted of low polarity material, medium polarity material, and salty water.

Dr. Allan Bertram, a professor in the department of chemistry, said, “We’ve shown that certain types of aerosol particles in the atmosphere, including ones that are likely abundant in cities, can often have three distinct liquid phases. These properties play a role in air quality and climate. What we hope is that these results improve models used in air quality and climate change policies.”

To test their hypothesis, scientists injected a solvatochromic dye into particles containing a mixture of all three of these components. Remarkable, they observed three different colors in these particles, confirming the presence of three liquid phases.

Scientists also studied particles’ properties containing three phases: their behavior as seeds for clouds and how fast gases go into and out of the particles.

They mainly focused on particles containing mixtures of lubricating oil from gas vehicles, oxidized organic material from fossil fuel combustion and trees, and inorganic material from fossil fuel combustion.

Contingent upon the lubricating oil properties and the oxidized organic material, a distinctive number of liquid passes will show upbringing about various effects on air quality and climate.

Dr. Bertram said“Through what we’ve shown, we’ve improved our understanding of atmospheric aerosols. That should lead to better predictions of air quality and climate and better predictions of what will happen in the next 50 years. If policies are made based on a high uncertainty model, then the policies will have high uncertainties. I hope we can improve that.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Yuanzhou Huang et al. Coexistence of three liquid phases in individual atmospheric aerosol particles. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2102512118


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