Effect of Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonate on the Production of Cloud Condensation Nuclei from Breaking Waves

Sean Hartery, John MacInnis, Rachel Y.W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While sea spray particles are highly soluble by nature, and are thus excellent seeds for nascent cloud droplets, organic compounds such as surfactants have previously been identified within aerosol particles, bulk seawater, and the sea-surface microlayer in various oceans and seas. As the presence of dissolved surfactants within spray particles may limit their ability to act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), and since the abundance of CCN available during cloud formation is known to affect cloud albedo, the presence of surfactants in the marine environment can affect the local radiation balance. In this work, we added a model surfactant commonly used in households and industry (sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate, SDBS) to a control solution of NaCl and observed its effects on the number of CCN produced by artificial breaking waves. We found that the addition of SDBS modified the number of CCN produced by a breaking wave analogue in three main ways: (I) by reducing the hygroscopicity of the resulting particulate; (II) by producing finer particulates than the control NaCl solution; and (III) by reducing the total number of particles produced overall. In addition, measurements of the absorption of ultraviolet light (λ = 224 nm) were used to quantify the concentration of SDBS in bulk water samples and aerosol extracts. We found that SDBS was significantly enriched in aerosol extracts relative to the bulk water even when the concentration of SDBS in the bulk water was below the limit of detection (LOD) of our quantitation methods. Thus, the surfactant studied will influence the production of CCN even when present in minute concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2944-2954
Number of pages11
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CCN
  • aerosol-cloud interactions
  • hygroscopicity
  • sea spray
  • surfactants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science


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