Ozone Initiates Human-Derived Emission of Nanocluster Aerosols

Shen Yang, Dusan Licina*, Charles J Weschler, Nijing Wang, Nora Zannoni, Mengze Li, Joonas Vanhanen, Sarka Langer, Pawel Wargocki, Jonathan Williams, Gabriel Bekö

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    Nanocluster aerosols (NCAs, particles <3 nm) are important players in driving climate feedbacks and processes that impact human health. This study reports, for the first time, NCA formation when gas-phase ozone reacts with human surfaces. In an occupied climatecontrolled chamber, we detected NCA only when ozone was present. NCA emissions were dependent on clothing coverage, occupant age, air temperature, and humidity. Ozone-initiated chemistry with human skin lipids (particularly their primary surface reaction products) is the key mechanism driving NCA emissions, as evidenced by positive correlations with squalene in human skin wipe samples and known gaseous products from ozonolysis of skin lipids. Oxidation by OH radicals, autoxidation reactions, and human-emitted NH3 may also play a role in NCA formation. Such chemical processes are anticipated to generate aerosols of the smallest size (1.18−1.55 nm), whereas larger clusters result from subsequent growth of the smaller aerosols. This study shows that whenever we encounter ozone indoors, where we spend most of our lives, NCAs will be produced in the air around us
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
    Issue number21
    Pages (from-to)14536-14545
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


    • Human skin lipids
    • Indoor air
    • Molecular clusters
    • Ozone chemistry
    • Particle formation


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