Size distributions of 3-10 nm atmospheric particles: Implications for nucleation mechanisms

Peter H. Mcmurry, Keung Shan Woo, Rodney Weber, Da Ren Chen, David Y.H. Pui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The formation of new atmospheric particles by gas-to-particle conversion leads to enhanced concentrations of nanoparticles. We have studied the formation and growth of new particles in urban Atlanta and in the remote atmosphere in locations ranging from the North Pole to Mauna Loa, Tasmania and the South Pole. Key to this work was our development of new measurement techniques for freshly formed nucleation mode particles between 3 and 10 nm. In this paper we show that measured aerosol size distributions in the 3-10 nm diameter range often increase with decreasing size down to our minimum detectable size of 3 nm, presumably because nucleation was occurring during the measurement. Furthermore, we show that the Atlanta nucleation mode size distributions are consistent with a collision-controlled nucleation process in which accommodation coefficients for all collisions between condensing molecules and molecular clusters and between molecular clusters are assumed to be equal to one, and in which evaporation from molecular clusters is neglected, as would be expected for a highly supersaturated vapour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2625-2642
Number of pages18
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1775
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Atmospheric aerosol
  • Gas-to-particle conversion
  • Homogeneous nucleation
  • Nanoparticles
  • Nucleation mode
  • Sulphuric acid
  • Ultrafine aerosol


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