The journal of physical chemistry. A

Chemical and physical transformations of aluminosilicate clay minerals due to acid treatment and consequences for heterogeneous ice nucleation.

PMID 25211030


Mineral dust aerosol is one of the largest contributors to global ice nuclei, but physical and chemical processing of dust during atmospheric transport can alter its ice nucleation activity. In particular, several recent studies have noted that sulfuric and nitric acids inhibit heterogeneous ice nucleation in the regime below liquid water saturation in aluminosilicate clay minerals. We have exposed kaolinite, KGa-1b and KGa-2, and montmorillonite, STx-1b and SWy-2, to aqueous sulfuric and nitric acid to determine the physical and chemical changes that are responsible for the observed deactivation. To characterize the changes to the samples upon acid treatment, we use X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy. We find that the reaction of kaolinite and montmorillonite with aqueous sulfuric acid results in the formation of hydrated aluminum sulfate. In addition, sulfuric and nitric acids induce large structural changes in montmorillonite. We additionally report the supersaturation with respect to ice required for the onset of ice nucleation for these acid-treated species. On the basis of lattice spacing arguments, we explain how the chemical and physical changes observed upon acid treatment could lead to the observed reduction in ice nucleation activity.