Hygroscopic behavior of aerosol particles from biomass fires using environmental transmission electron microscopy

Trudi A. Semeniuk, Matthew E. Wise, Scot T. Martin, Lynn M. Russell, P R Buseck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


We used both a conventional transmission electron microscope and an environmental transmission electron microscope (ETEM) to determine morphology, composition, and water uptake of 80 individual aerosol particles collected from the young smoke of flaming and smoldering fires during SAFARI-2000, a comprehensive air quality campaign in southern Africa. Six representative carbonaceous particle types are described, including soot, tar balls, and heterogeneously internally mixed particles containing C with S-, K-, Mg- or Na-rich inorganic phases. The hygroscopic behavior of these particles over the range 0-100% relative humidity (RH) was studied in detail. Soot and tar balls did not take up water, whereas the mixed organic-inorganic particles took up water between 55 and 100% RH, the exact value depending on the composition of their water-soluble phases. The inorganic phase appeared to determine the hygroscopic properties of all mixed organic-inorganic particles. Thus, incorporation of inorganic plant material or reactions with inorganic atmospheric components can dramatically alter the hygroscopic properties of carbonaceous particles in smoke plumes. The fraction of these mixed organic-inorganic particles plausibly increases with time, which will modulate the effects of smoke on radiative budgets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-273
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Atmospheric Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Biomass burning
  • Deliquescence
  • ETEM
  • Efflorescence
  • Soot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Atmospheric Science


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