Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered three liquid phases in aerosol particles: they have changed the understanding of air pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Earlier it became known that aerosol particles contain up to two liquid phases. The discovery of a new phase is important to provide more accurate atmospheric models and climate predictions.
We have shown that some types of aerosol particles in the atmosphere, such as those common in cities, can have three different liquid phases. These properties play a role in air quality and climate. We hope that these results will improve the models used in air quality and climate change policies.
Allan Bertram, Professor of the Department of Chemistry
Aerosol particles fill the atmosphere, so air quality depends on them. These particles can absorb and reflect solar radiation, affecting the climate system. However, the principles of their behavior are still unknown.
To clarify information about the liquid phases, scientists injected into the particles, a solvatochromic dye, which changes color depending on the polarity of its environment.
This method is widely used in biology and chemistry; it is not for characterizing the phase behavior of atmospheric aerosols. It is noteworthy that three different colors were observed in these particles, confirming the presence of three liquid phases.
The authors focused on particles containing lube oil mixtures from gas vehicles, oxidized organic material from burning fossil fuels and trees, and inorganic material from burning fossil fuels.
Depending on the properties of the lubricating oil and the oxidized organic material, different amounts of liquid phases appear, resulting in different effects on air quality and climate.