Document Type


Original Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of Chemical Physics





DOI of Original Publication



Originally published at

Date of Submission

October 2015


This work reports the direct observation and separation of size-selected aluminum nanoparticlesacting as heterogeneous nuclei for the condensation of supersaturated vapors of both polar and nonpolar molecules. In the experiment, we study the condensation of supersaturated acetonitrile and n-hexane vapors on charged and neutral Al nanoparticles by activation of the metalnanoparticles to act as heterogeneous nuclei for the condensation of the organic vapor.Aluminum seed nanoparticles with diameters of 1 and 2 nm are capable of acting as heterogeneous nuclei for the condensation of supersaturated acetonitrile and hexane vapors. The comparison between the Kelvin and Fletcher diameters indicates that for theheterogeneous nucleation of both acetonitrile and hexane vapors, particles are activated at significantly smaller sizes than predicted by the Kelvin equation. The activation of the Alnanoparticles occurs at nearly 40% and 65% of the onset of homogeneous nucleation of acetonitrile and hexane supersaturated vapors, respectively. The lower activation of the chargedAl nanoparticles in acetonitrile vapor is due to the charge-dipole interaction which results in rapid condensation of the highly polar acetonitrile molecules on the charged Al nanoparticles.The charge-dipole interaction decreases with increasing the size of the Al nanoparticles and therefore at low supersaturations, most of the heterogeneous nucleation events are occurring on neutral nanoparticles. No sign effect has been observed for the condensation of the organic vapors on the positively and negatively charged Al nanoparticles. The present approach of generating metal nanoparticles by pulsed laser vaporization within a supersaturated organic vapor allows for efficient separation between nucleation and growth of the metal nanoparticlesand, consequently controls the average particle size, particle density, and particle size distribution within the liquid droplets of the condensing vapor. Strong correlation is found between the seed nanoparticle's size and the degree of the supersaturation of the condensing vapor. This result and the agreement among the calculated Kelvin diameters and the size of the nucleating Al nanoparticles determined by transmission electron microscopy provide strong proof for the development of a new approach for the separation and characterization of heterogeneous nuclei formed in organic vapors. These processes can take place in the atmosphere by a combination of several organic species including polar compounds which could be very efficient in activating charged nanoparticles and cluster ions of atmospheric relevance.


Abdelsayed, V., and El-Shall, M. S. Direct observation of metal nanoparticles as heterogeneous nuclei for the condensation of supersaturated organic vapors: Nucleation of size-selected aluminum nanoparticles in acetonitrile and n-hexane vapors. The Journal of Chemical Physics, 141, 054710 (2014). Copyright © 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.

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