Cloud condensation nuclei activity of six pollenkitts and the influence of their surface activity
The role of surfactants in governing water interactions of atmospheric aerosols has been a recurring topic in cloud microphysics for more than two decades. Studies of detailed surface thermodynamics are limited by the availability of aerosol samples for experimental analysis and incomplete validation of various proposed Köhler model frameworks for complex mixtures representative of atmospheric aerosol. Pollenkitt is a viscous material that coats grains of pollen and plays important roles in pollen dispersion and plant reproduction. Previous work suggests that it may also be an important contributor to pollen water uptake and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity. The chemical composition of pollenkitt varies between species but has been found to comprise complex organic mixtures including oxygenated, lipid, and aliphatic functionalities. This mix of functionalities suggests that pollenkitt may display aqueous surface activity, which could significantly impact pollen interactions with atmospheric water. Here, we study the surface activity of pollenkitt from six different species and its influence on pollenkitt hygroscopicity. We measure cloud droplet activation and concentration-dependent surface tension of pollenkitt and its mixtures with ammonium sulfate salt. Experiments are compared to predictions from several thermodynamic models, taking aqueous surface tension reduction and surfactant surface partitioning into account in various ways. We find a clear reduction of surface tension by pollenkitt in aqueous solution and evidence for impact of both surface tension and surface partitioning mechanisms on cloud droplet activation potential and hygroscopicity of pollenkitt particles. In addition, we find indications of complex nonideal solution effects in a systematic and consistent dependency of pollenkitt hygroscopicity on particle size. The impact of pollenkitt surface activity on cloud microphysics is different from what is observed in previous work for simple atmospheric surfactants and more resembles recent observations for complex primary and secondary organic aerosol, adding new insight to our understanding of the multifaceted role of surfactants in governing aerosol–water interactions. We illustrate how the explicit characterization of pollenkitt contributions provides the basis for modeling water uptake and cloud formation of pollen and their fragments over a wide range of atmospheric conditions.