Traffic-originated nanocluster emission exceeds H2SO4-driven photochemical new particle formation in an urban area

Miska Olin (Corresponding Author), Heino Kuuluvainen, Minna Aurela, Joni Kalliokoski, Niina Kuittinen, Mia Isotalo, Hilkka J. Timonen, Jarkko V. Niemi, Topi Rönkkö, Miikka Dal Maso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Elevated ambient concentrations of sub-3 nm particles (nanocluster aerosol, NCA) are generally related to atmospheric new particle formation events, usually linked with gaseous sulfuric acid (H2SO4) produced via photochemical oxidation of sulfur dioxide. According to our measurement results of H2SO4 and NCA concentrations, traffic density, and solar irradiance at an urban traffic site in Helsinki, Finland, the view of aerosol formation in traffic-influenced environments is updated by presenting two separate and independent pathways of traffic affecting the atmospheric NCA concentrations: by acting as a direct nanocluster source and by influencing the production of H2SO4. As traffic density in many areas is generally correlated with solar radiation, it is likely that the influence of traffic-related nanoclusters has been hidden in the diurnal variation and is thus underestimated because new particle formation events also follow the diurnal cycle of sunlight. Urban aerosol formation studies should, therefore, be updated to include the proposed formation mechanisms. The formation of H2SO4 in urban environments is here separated into two routes: primary H2SO4 is formed in hot vehicle exhaust and is converted rapidly to the particle phase; secondary H2SO4 results from the combined effect of emitted gaseous precursors and available solar radiation. A rough estimation demonstrates that ∼85 % of the total NCA and ∼68 % of the total H2SO4 in urban air at noontime at the measurement site are contributed by traffic, indicating the importance of traffic emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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