Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Sciences (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Physics


Claudio Mazzoleni


Atmospheric particles are ubiquitous in Earth’s atmosphere and impact the environment and the climate while affecting human health and Earth’s radiation balance, and degrading visibility. Atmospheric particles directly affect our planet’s radiation budget by scattering and absorbing solar radiation, and indirectly by interacting with clouds. Single particle morphology (shape, size and internal structure) and mixing state (coating by organic and inorganic material) can significantly influence the particle optical properties as well as various microphysical processes, involving cloud-particle interactions and including heterogeneous ice nucleation and water uptake. Conversely, aerosol cloud processing can affect the morphology and mixing of the particles. For example, fresh soot has typically an open fractal-like structure, but aging and cloud processing can restructure soot into more compacted shapes, with different optical and ice nucleation properties.

During my graduate research, I used an array of electron microscopy and image analysis tools to study morphology and mixing state of a large number of individual particles collected during several field and laboratory studies. To this end, I investigated various types of particles such as tar balls (spherical carbonaceous particles emitted during biomass burning) and dust particles, but with a special emphasis on soot particles. In addition, I used the Stony Brook ice nucleation cell facility to investigate heterogeneous ice nucleation and water uptake by long-range transported particles collected at the Pico Mountain Observatory, in the Archipelago of the Azores. Finally, I used ice nucleation data from the SAAS (Soot Aerosol Aging Study) chamber study at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to understand the effects that ice nucleation and supercooled water processing has on the morphology of residual soot particles. Some highlights of our findings and implications are discussed next.

We found that the morphology of fresh soot emitted by vehicles depends on the driving conditions (i.e.; the vehicle specific power). Soot emitted by biomass burning is often heavily coated by other materials while processing of soot in urban environment exhibits complex mixing. We also found that long-range transported soot over the ocean after atmospheric processing is very compacted. In addition, our results suggest that freezing process can facilitate restructuring of soot and results into collapsed soot. Furthermore, numerical simulations showed strong influence on optical properties when fresh open fractal-like soot evolved to collapsed soot. Further investigation of longrange transported aged particles exhibits that they are efficient in water uptake and can induce ice nucleation in colder temperature

Our results have implications for assessing the impact of the morphology and mixing state of soot particles on human health, environment and climate. Our findings can provide guidance to numerical models such as particle-resolved mixing state models to account for, and better understand, vehicular emissions and soot evolution since its emission to atmospheric processing in urban environment and finally in remote regions after long-range transport. Morphology and mixing state information can be used to model observational-constrained optical properties. The details of morphology and mixing state of soot particles are crucial to assess the accuracy of climate models in describing the contribution of soot radiative forcing and their direct and indirect climate effects. Finally, our observations of ice nucleation ability by aged particles show that nucleated particles are internally mixed and coated with several materials.