Aggregation and charging of mineral cloud particles under high-energy irradiation

Nanna Bach-Møller, Christiane Helling, Uffe G. Jørgensen, Martin B. Enghoff

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It is known from Earth that ionizing high-energy radiation can lead to ion-induced nucleation of cloud condensation nuclei in the atmosphere. Since the amount of high-energy radiation can vary greatly based on the radiative environment of a host star, understanding the effect of high-energy radiation on cloud particles is critical to understand exoplanet atmospheres. This study aims to explore how high-energy radiation affects the aggregation and charging of mineral cloud particles. We present experiments conducted in an atmosphere chamber on mineral SiO2 particles with diameters of 50 nm. The particles were exposed to gamma radiation in either low-humidity (RH ≈ 20%) or high-humidity (RH > 50%) environments. The aggregation and charging state of the particles were studied with a Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer. We find that the single SiO2 particles (N1) cluster to form larger aggregates (N2 -N4), and that this aggregation is inhibited by gamma radiation. We find that gamma radiation shifts the charging of the particles to become more negative, by increasing the charging state of negatively charged particles. Through an independent T-test we find that this increase is statistically significant within a 5% significance level for all aggregates in the high-humidity environment, and for all except the N1 particles in the low-humidity environment. For the positively charged particles the changes in charging state are not within the 5% significance level. We suggest that the overall effect of gamma radiation could favor the formation of a high number of small particles over a lower number of larger particles.
Original languageEnglish
Article number87
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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