CORDIS - EU research results

A Missing Key Property in Atmospheric AeRosol ChEmistry: the Laplace Pressure

Project description

Understanding the pressure tiny particles face and how it affects their development

Millions of solid particles and liquid droplets are present in the air we breathe. From pollen to volcanic ash to sea salt, aerosols are ubiquitous. Natural and human-made aerosols have important impact on climate, largely through effects on cloud formation and absorbance or reflection of the Sun's energy. However, they are one of the biggest sources of uncertainty in climate models. The EU-funded MAARvEL project is focusing on the smallest particles and the effects of Laplace pressure on their formation, distribution, and properties. This system has not been studied at all to date. Insight will improve the accuracy of climate models, leading to higher predictive power and enhanced ability to meet one of the greatest challenges of the century.


Fine aerosol particles are ubiquitous in the atmosphere and have important impacts on climate change and air quality. Organic compounds represent the largest mass fraction of fine particulate matter and their formation is believed to occur through the condensation of oxygenated volatile organic compounds. However, a fundamental physicochemical property of atmospheric aerosols – the Laplace pressure – has never been studied. This “missing” property is expected to have major implications for atmospheric chemistry and may explain the current gaps between ambient observations and modelling studies when evaluating the formation rates, ambient concentrations and the spatial distribution of atmospheric nanoparticles. Hence, my project aims at elucidating the key processes driven by the Laplace pressure in atmospheric aerosols and how they impact on the growth, evolution and physicochemical properties of submicron particles. MAARvEL focuses on the smallest particles, where the Laplace pressure is expected to have the greatest impact. By exploiting recent instrumental developments and using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry techniques, MAARvEL will provide an unequalled understanding of the processes occurring within the particles. Innovative laboratory experiments will be performed to discover the central role of the Laplace pressure for; (i) condensed-phase reactions, (ii) photochemical processes, and (iii) physicochemical properties of submicron particles. A strong emphasis will be placed on quantifying the extent to which chemical processes govern the growth and evolution of atmospheric nanometre-sized particles. By revealing how the Laplace pressure controls particle phase chemistry, MAARvEL will provide a major breakthrough to support more accurate predictions of the formation and evolution of atmospheric nanoparticles, thereby decreasing the uncertainties in assessing the magnitude of aerosol effects on climate.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 994 813,00
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 994 813,00

Beneficiaries (1)