ETH Zurich researchers conducted an experiment to investigate the initial steps in the formation of aerosols. Their findings are now aiding efforts to better understand and model that process – for example, the formation of clouds in the atmosphere.
Aerosols are suspensions of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in a gas. Clouds, for example, are aerosols because they consist of water droplets dispersed in the air. Such droplets are produced in a two-step process: first, a condensation nucleus forms, and then volatile molecules condense onto this nucleus, producing a droplet. Nuclei frequently consist of molecules different to those that