Atmospheric Science

Fat Coats

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Science  22 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5721, pp. 469
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5721.469c

It has been suggested that atmospheric aerosols (particles containing a hydrophilic core of sulfate, nitrate, or ammonium salts) may carry organic surfactants on their surface. If so, this would have important effects on the chemical and physical properties of aerosols, as well as consequences for climate and human health. Recent analysis has shown that some marine aerosols do, in fact, sport an outer layer of fatty acids, but whether this is true for other aerosols has been unclear.

Tervahattu et al.report that some aerosols of continental origin are coated with fatty acids. They used time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry to detect the presence of these molecules in the outermost 3 nm (of a 0.1- to 1.0-μm particle) in aerosols derived from forest fires and from the burning of coal and straw. — HJS

J. Geophys. Res. 110, 10.1029/2004JD005400 (2005).

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