Aerodynamic size-resolved composition and cloud condensation nuclei properties of aerosols in a Beijing suburban region

Chenjie Yu, Dantong Liu, Kang Hu, Ping Tian, Yangzhou Wu, Delong Zhao, Huihui Wu, Dawei Hu, Wenbo Guo, Qiang Li, Mengyu Huang, Deping Ding, James D. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The size-resolved physiochemical properties of aerosols determine their atmospheric lifetime, cloud interactions and the deposition rate on the human respiratory system; however most atmospheric composition studies tend to evaluate these properties in bulk. This study investigated size-resolved constituents of aerosols on mass and number basis, and their droplet activation properties, by coupling a suite of online measurements with an aerosol aerodynamic classifier (AAC) based on aerodynamic diameter (Da) in Pinggu, a suburb of Beijing. While organic matter accounted for a large fraction of mass, a higher contribution of particulate nitrate at larger sizes (Da>300 nm) was found under polluted cases. By considering the mixing state of refractory-black-carbon-containing particles (rBCc) and composition-dependent densities, aerosols including rBCc were confirmed to be nearly spherical at Da>300 nm. Importantly, the number fraction of rBCc was found to increase with Da at all pollution levels. The number fraction of refractory black carbon (rBC) is found to increase from ∼3 % at ∼90 nm to ∼15 % at ∼1000 nm, and this increasing rBC number fraction may be caused by the coagulation during atmospheric ageing. The droplet activation diameter at a water supersaturation of 0.2 % was 112±6 and 193±41 nm for all particles with Da smaller than 1 μm (PM1) and rBCc respectively. As high as 52±6 % of rBCc and 50±4 % of all PM1 particles in number could be activated under heavy pollution due to enlarged particle size, which could be predicted by applying the volume mixing of substance hygroscopicity within rBCc. As rBCc contribute to the quantity of aerosols at larger particle size, these thickly coated rBCc may contribute to the radiation absorption significantly or act as an important source of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). This size regime may also exert important health effects due to their higher deposition rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4375-4391
Number of pages17
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2022


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