Impacts of coagulation on the appearance time method for new particle growth rate evaluation and their corrections

Cai, Runlong; Li, Chenxi; He, Xu-Cheng; Deng, Chenjuan; Lu, Yiqun; Yin, Rujing; Yan, Chao; Wang, Lin; Jiang, Jingkun; Kulmala, Markku; Kangasluoma, Juha

The growth rate of atmospheric new particles is a key parameter that determines their survival probability of becoming cloud condensation nuclei and hence their impact on the climate. There have been several methods to estimate the new particle growth rate. However, due to the impact of coagulation and measurement uncertainties, it is still challenging to estimate the initial growth rate of new particles, especially in polluted environments with high background aerosol concentrations. In this study, we explore the influences of coagulation on the appearance time method to estimate the growth rate of sub-3 nm particles. The principle of the appearance time method and the impacts of coagulation on the retrieved growth rate are clarified via derivations. New formulae in both discrete and continuous spaces are proposed to correct for the impacts of coagulation. Aerosol dynamic models are used to test the new formulae. New particle formation in urban Beijing is used to illustrate the importance of considering the impacts of coagulation on the sub-3 nm particle growth rate and its calculation. We show that the conventional appearance time method needs to be corrected when the impacts of coagulation sink, coagulation source, and particle coagulation growth are non-negligible compared to the condensation growth. Under the simulation conditions with a constant concentration of non-volatile vapors, the corrected growth rate agrees with the theoretical growth rates. However, the uncorrected parameters, e.g., vapor evaporation and the variation in vapor concentration, may impact the growth rate obtained with the appearance time method. Under the simulation conditions with a varying vapor concentration, the average bias in the corrected 1.5–3 nm particle growth rate ranges from 6 %–44 %, and the maximum bias in the size-dependent growth rate is 150 %. During the test new particle formation event in urban Beijing, the corrected condensation growth rate of sub-3 nm particles was in accordance with the growth rate contributed by sulfuric acid condensation, whereas the conventional appearance time method overestimated the condensation growth rate of 1.5 nm particles by 80 %.

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Cai, Runlong / Li, Chenxi / He, Xu-Cheng / et al: Impacts of coagulation on the appearance time method for new particle growth rate evaluation and their corrections. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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