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Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy to Investigate Water Uptake and Phase Transitions in Atmospherically Relevant Particles

Volume 61, Number 3 (March 2007) Page 283-292

Schuttlefield, Jennifer; Al-Hosney, Hashim; Zachariah, Ann; Grassian, Vicki H.


In this study, attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FT-IR) spectroscopy is used to investigate water uptake and phase transitions for atmospherically relevant particles. Changes in the ATR-FT-IR spectra of NaCl, NH4 NO3, (NH4)2SO4, Ca(NO3)2, and SiO2 as a function of relative humidity (RH) are presented and discussed. For these various particles, water can (1) become adsorbed on the particle surface; and/or (2) become absorbed in the particle structure to form a hydrate salt; and/or (3) become absorbed by the particle to form a liquid solution. Spectral features and analyses that distinguish these various processes are discussed. For the salts that do undergo a solid to liquid phase transition (deliquescence), excellent agreement is found between the measurements made here with ATR-FT-IR spectroscopy, a relatively simple, inexpensive, and readily available analytical tool, compared to more expensive, elaborate aerosol flow reactor systems using tandem differential mobility analyzers. In addition, for particles that adsorb water, we show here the utility of coupling ATR-FT-IR measurements with simultaneous quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) measurements. This coupling allows for the quantification of the amount of water associated with the particle as a function of relative humidity (f(RH)) along with the spectroscopic data.