Atmospheric tar balls

Particles from biomass and biofuel burning

Mihály Pósfai, András Gelencsér, Renáta Simonics, Krisztina Arató, Jia Li, Peter V. Hobbs, P R Buseck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

213 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

"Tar balls" are amorphous, carbonaceous spherules that occur in the tropospheric aerosol as a result of biomass and biofuel burning. They form a distinct group of particles with diameters typically between 30 and 500 nm and readily identifiable with electron microscopy. Their lack of a turbostratic microstructure distinguishes them from soot, and their morphology and composition (~90 mol % carbon) renders them distinct from other carbonaceous particles. Tar balls are particularly abundant in slightly aged (minutes to hours old) biomass smoke, indicating that they likely form by gas-to-particle conversion within smoke plumes. The material of tar balls is initially hygroscopic; however, the particles become largely insoluble as a result of free radical polymerization of their organic molecules. Consequently, tar balls are primarily externally mixed with other particle types, and they do not appreciably increase in size during aging. When tar balls coagulate with water-bearing particles, their material may partly dissolve and no longer be recognizable as distinct particles. Tar balls may contain organic compounds that absorb sunlight. They are an important, previously unrecognized type of carbonaceous (organic) atmospheric particle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres
Volume109
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 27 2004

Fingerprint

Tars
biomass burning
tars
Biofuels
tar
biofuel
balls
Biomass
biomass
Smoke
smoke
Bearings (structural)
Soot
spherule
spherules
atmospheric particle
Free radical polymerization
Aerosols
Organic compounds
Electron microscopy

Keywords

  • Aerosol
  • Biomass burning
  • Tar ball

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

Cite this

Pósfai, M., Gelencsér, A., Simonics, R., Arató, K., Li, J., Hobbs, P. V., & Buseck, P. R. (2004). Atmospheric tar balls: Particles from biomass and biofuel burning. Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres, 109(6).

Atmospheric tar balls : Particles from biomass and biofuel burning. / Pósfai, Mihály; Gelencsér, András; Simonics, Renáta; Arató, Krisztina; Li, Jia; Hobbs, Peter V.; Buseck, P R.

In: Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres, Vol. 109, No. 6, 27.03.2004.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Pósfai, M, Gelencsér, A, Simonics, R, Arató, K, Li, J, Hobbs, PV & Buseck, PR 2004, 'Atmospheric tar balls: Particles from biomass and biofuel burning', Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres, vol. 109, no. 6.
Pósfai M, Gelencsér A, Simonics R, Arató K, Li J, Hobbs PV et al. Atmospheric tar balls: Particles from biomass and biofuel burning. Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres. 2004 Mar 27;109(6).
Pósfai, Mihály ; Gelencsér, András ; Simonics, Renáta ; Arató, Krisztina ; Li, Jia ; Hobbs, Peter V. ; Buseck, P R. / Atmospheric tar balls : Particles from biomass and biofuel burning. In: Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres. 2004 ; Vol. 109, No. 6.
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