Traffic is a major source of ultrafine aerosol particles in urban environments. Recent studies show that a significant fraction of traffic-related particles are only few nanometers in diameter. Here, we study the dispersion of this nanocluster aerosol (NCA) in the size range 1.3–4 nm. We measured particle concentrations near a major highway in the Helsinki region of Finland, varying the distance from the highway. Additionally, modelling studies were performed to gain further information on how different transformation processes affect NCA dispersion. The roadside measurements showed that NCA concentrations fell more rapidly than the total particle concentrations, especially during the morning. However, a significant amount of NCA particles remained as the aerosol population evolved. Modelling studies showed that, while dilution is the main process acting on the total particle concentration, deposition also had a significant impact. Condensation and possibly enhanced deposition of NCA were the main plausible processes explaining why dispersion is faster for NCA than for total particle concentration, while the effect of coagulation on all size ranges was small. Based on our results, we conclude that NCA may play a significant role in urban environments, since, rather than being scavenged by larger particles, NCA particles remain in the particle population and grow by condensation.
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