Atmospheric aerosols can affect human health and earth's radiation balance. The formation of these aerosols has been shown to cast high uncertainty in current global climate modeling. Most observed nucleation events in the boundary layers are correlated with high sulfuric acid concentration. Nucleation rates are usually proportional to sulfuric acid concentration up to the third power. After atmospheric aerosol particles are formed, they often grow at a speed faster than can be explained by sulfuric acid condensation, suggesting that other chemical species also participate in this process. The detailed mechanisms of how these particles are formed and their subsequent growth are still unclear.
This work is focused on furthering our understanding of atmospheric nucleation. My contribution is mainly on the following three topics: (1) characterizing condensation particle counters (CPCs) for accurate particle measurements down to 1 nm, the size close to the smallest stable sulfuric acid clusters; (2) developing a method of estimating time and size resolved particle growth rates and atmospheric nucleation rates based on data from both atmospheric and laboratory studies; (3) deriving of a simple semi-empirical acid-base reaction model for atmospheric nucleation in the polluted atmospheric boundary layer.