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Supersaturation and Time Dependence of Ice Nucleation from the Vapor on Single Crystal Substrates

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  • 1 Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nev. 89507
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Abstract

Nucleation of individual ice crystals on large (3.0 mm) cleaved crystals of solution-grown silver iodide and covellite is investigated by microscopy. The environmental vapor pressure is controlled by saturating two air streams by passage through ice labyrinths at different temperatures and mixing them in known proportion. This enables the vapor pressure to be changed over a period of about 10 s.

Ice crystals do not usually appear immediately when a supersaturation is imposed. Nucleation, defined as the appearance of crystals of 1 µm radius, is delayed between zero and 70 s near water saturation and between 20 and 400 s at a few percent ice supersaturation, the longer times occurring at higher temperature. This time decreases only marginally when the crystal is exposed to a period of higher supersaturation which ends a few seconds prior to the time crystals would appear at this higher value. The number of crystals per unit area increases with ice supersaturation at a given temperature; for CuS at −16°C, it increases by a factor of 3 between 3% and water saturation. Number concentrations on silver iodide are comparable, but increase with time when the surface is exposed to light. The absolute crystal concentration varies over the substrate surface. Large areas fail to nucleate at all; some areas give high concentrations, 500 mm−2. Crystals form at specific nucleation sites. Each requires a different critical ice supersaturation for nucleation which remains unchanged in sequential tests. This property disappears for AgI after exposure to light; then nucleation sites do not repeat. Nucleation events per unit area are fewer than on particulates which are inferred to contain a proportionately greater surface concentration

of nucleation sites.

Results are applied to crystal nucleation in the atmosphere and the characterization of ice nuclei in laboratory instruments.

Abstract

Nucleation of individual ice crystals on large (3.0 mm) cleaved crystals of solution-grown silver iodide and covellite is investigated by microscopy. The environmental vapor pressure is controlled by saturating two air streams by passage through ice labyrinths at different temperatures and mixing them in known proportion. This enables the vapor pressure to be changed over a period of about 10 s.

Ice crystals do not usually appear immediately when a supersaturation is imposed. Nucleation, defined as the appearance of crystals of 1 µm radius, is delayed between zero and 70 s near water saturation and between 20 and 400 s at a few percent ice supersaturation, the longer times occurring at higher temperature. This time decreases only marginally when the crystal is exposed to a period of higher supersaturation which ends a few seconds prior to the time crystals would appear at this higher value. The number of crystals per unit area increases with ice supersaturation at a given temperature; for CuS at −16°C, it increases by a factor of 3 between 3% and water saturation. Number concentrations on silver iodide are comparable, but increase with time when the surface is exposed to light. The absolute crystal concentration varies over the substrate surface. Large areas fail to nucleate at all; some areas give high concentrations, 500 mm−2. Crystals form at specific nucleation sites. Each requires a different critical ice supersaturation for nucleation which remains unchanged in sequential tests. This property disappears for AgI after exposure to light; then nucleation sites do not repeat. Nucleation events per unit area are fewer than on particulates which are inferred to contain a proportionately greater surface concentration

of nucleation sites.

Results are applied to crystal nucleation in the atmosphere and the characterization of ice nuclei in laboratory instruments.

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