New Particle Formation in the Atmosphere: From Molecular Clusters to Global Climate
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2019. The Authors. New particle formation (NPF) represents the first step in the complex processes leading to formation of cloud condensation nuclei. Newly formed nanoparticles affect human health, air quality, weather, and climate. This review provides a brief history, synthesizes recent significant progresses, and outlines the challenges and future directions for research relevant to NPF. New developments include the emergence of state-of-the-art instruments that measure prenucleation clusters and newly nucleated nanoparticles down to about 1 nm; systematic laboratory studies of multicomponent nucleation systems, including collaborative experiments conducted in the Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets chamber at CERN; observations of NPF in different types of forests, extremely polluted urban locations, coastal sites, polar regions, and high-elevation sites; and improved nucleation theories and parameterizations to account for NPF in atmospheric models. The challenges include the lack of understanding of the fundamental chemical mechanisms responsible for aerosol nucleation and growth under diverse environments, the effects of SO2 and NOx on NPF, and the contribution of anthropogenic organic compounds to NPF. It is also critical to develop instruments that can detect chemical composition of particles from 3 to 20 nm and improve parameterizations to represent NPF over a wide range of atmospheric conditions of chemical precursor, temperature, and humidity.