Mie scattering from optically levitated mixed sulfuric acid-silica core- shell aerosols: confirmation of core-shell morphology for atmospheric science

Megan McGrory, Rosalie Shepherd, Martin King, Nicholas Davidson, Francis Pope, I. Matthew Watson, Roy Grainger, Anthony Jones, Andrew Ward

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Sulfuric acid is shown to form a core-shell particle on a micron-sized, spherical silica bead optically trapped. The refractive indexes of the silica and sulfuric acid, along with the shell thickness and bead radius were determined by reproducing Mie scattered optical white light as a function of wavelength in Mie spectroscopy. Micron-sized silica aerosols (silica beads were used as a proxy for atmospheric silica minerals) were levitated in a mist of sulfuric acid particles; continuous collection of Mie spectra throughout the collision of sulfuric acid aerosols with the optically trapped silica aerosol demonstrated that the resulting aerosol had a core-shell morphology. Contrastingly, the collision of aqueous sulfuric acid aerosols with optically trapped polystyrene aerosol resulted in a partially coated system. The light scattering from the optically levitated aerosols was successfully modelled to determine the diameter of the core aerosol (±0.003 μm), the shell thickness (±0.0003 μm) and the refractive index (±0.007). The experiment demonstrated that the presence of a thin film rapidly changed the light scattering of the original aerosol. When a 1.964 μm diameter silica aerosol was covered with a film of sulfuric acid 0.287 μm thick, the wavelength dependent Mie peak positions resembled sulfuric acid. Thus mineral aerosol advected into the stratosphere would likely be coated with sulfuric acid, with a core-shell morphology, and its light scattering properties would be effectively indistinguishable from a homogenous sulfuric acid aerosol if the film thickness was greater than a few 100s of nm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5813-5822
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022

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