Liquid-liquid phase separation in aerosol particles: Dependence on O:C, organic functionalities, and compositional complexity

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Abstract

[1] Atmospheric aerosol particles may undergo liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) when exposed to varying relative humidity. In this study we investigated the occurrence of LLPS for mixtures consisting of up to ten organic compounds, ammonium sulfate, and water in relationship with the organic oxygen-to-carbon (O:C) ratio. LLPS always occurred for O:C < 0.56, never occurred for O:C > 0.80, and depended on the specific types and compositions of organic functional groups in the regime 0.56 < O:C < 0.80. In the intermediate regime, mixtures with a high share of aromatic compounds shifted the limit of occurrence of LLPS to lower O:C ratios. The number of mixture components and the spread of the O:C range did not notably influence the conditions for LLPS to occur. Since in ambient aerosols O:C range typically between 0.2 and 1.0, LLPS is expected to be a common feature of tropospheric aerosols.

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