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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2014 Aug 21;16(31):16677-83. doi: 10.1039/c4cp01939c.

Retrieving the translational diffusion coefficient of water from experiments on single levitated aerosol droplets.

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  • 1Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The time-dependent growth and shrinkage of aqueous aerosol particles trapped in an electrodynamic balance exposed to changes in relative humidity (RH) depend on the translational diffusion coefficient of water (DH2O). Resonances in the Mie scattering patterns of the illuminated micrometre-sized droplets are used to follow the compositional evolution through stepwise changes in RH. Under conditions where the diffusion of water molecules becomes sufficiently slow, e.g. in the highly viscous or even glassy regime, the concentration and temperature dependent values of DH2O can be determined iteratively by comparing the observed shifts in the Mie resonant wavelengths with predicted shifts from a diffusion model of a multi-layered sphere. It is shown that condensation and evaporation of water vapour from or to highly viscous or glassy droplets follow different kinetic regimes, a result that is consistent with previous studies of adsorption and desorption on glassy surfaces.

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