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Micro-PINGUIN: microtiter-plate-based instrument for ice nucleation detection in gallium with an infrared camera

New publication by Corina Wieber, Mads Rosenhøj Jeppesen, Kai Finster, Claus Melvad, Tina Santl-Temkiv


Ice nucleation particles play a crucial role in atmospheric processes; for example, they can trigger ice formation in clouds and thus influence their lifetime and optical properties. The quantification and characterization of these particles require reliable and precise measurement techniques. In this publication, we present a novel droplet freezing instrument to measure the immersion freezing of biotic and abiotic ice-nucleating particles within the temperature range of 0 to 25 °C. Immersion freezing of the samples is investigated using 384-well PCR plates with a sample volume of 30 µL. Nucleation events are detected with high precision using a thermal camera that records the increase in infrared emission due to the latent heat release. To maximize the thermal contact between the PCR plate and the surrounding cooling unit, we use a gallium bath as a mount for the PCR plate. The instrument was validated relative to a calibrated temperature standard and through reproducibility measurements employing the same suspension. We find that the combination of good thermal connectivity and precise temperature recording enables accurate (±0.81 °C at 10 °C) and reproducible (±0.20 °C) detection of the nucleation temperatures. Consequently, the results that are produced using the MICROtiter-Plate-based instrument for Ice Nucleation detection in GalliUm with an INfrared camera (micro-PINGUIN) are of good quality and the instrument can be used to study the immersion freezing of various ice-nucleating particles.

For comparison with already existing instruments, Snomax® (hereafter Snomax) and illite NX suspensions are measured with the new ice nucleation instrument, micro-PINGUIN. Further, we investigated the reproducibility of experiments using Snomax suspensions and found poor reproducibility when suspensions were prepared freshly even if the same batch of Snomax is used. This could be attributed to substrate heterogeneity, aging effects, and dilution errors. The reproducibility of the measurements is greatly improved for Snomax suspensions that are prepared in advance and stored frozen in aliquots. Thus, we suggest the use of suspensions frozen in aliquots for further reproducibility measurements and intercomparison studies.