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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-87
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-87
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  01 Aug 2019

01 Aug 2019

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This preprint has been withdrawn by the authors.

The Determination of Surfactants at the Sea Surface

Leon King, Ieuan J. Roberts, Liselotte Tinel, and Lucy J. Carpenter Leon King et al.
  • Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of York, York, YO10 5DQ, UK

Abstract. The surface of the ocean is a critical yet little understood interface that covers more than 70 % of the Earth's surface. Evidence is emerging that the so-called sea surface microlayer (SML) – the thin film of the ocean surface which is enriched in surface active material and contains large chemical, physical and biological gradients that separate it from the underlying seawater – plays an important role in regulating the air-sea exchange of gases and aerosols. Indeed, recent studies have suggested that (a) there is a ubiquitous enrichment of surfactants in the SML even at high wind speeds; (b) surfactants exert a control on air-sea CO2 exchange at the ocean basin scale, even at high wind, high latitude oceans, and (c) interfacial photochemistry within the SML serves as a major global abiotic source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), competitive with emissions from marine biology. These conclusions are based on measurements of surfactant activity (SA) from alternating current (AC) voltammetry, showing enrichment of SA in the SML compared to subsurface waters at the ocean basin scale even at high wind speeds, and a relationship between SA and suppression of air-sea gas exchange. SA is calibrated using the large non-ionic surfactant Triton X-100 (TX-100) and expressed in concentration units of TX-100 equivalents. Here, we show that the response of SA-voltammetry varies widely for different surfactants, depending on the surfactant's molecular weight and its charge. Further, even at short deposition times of 15 s, the response becomes saturated above total surfactant concentrations of 1–2 mg L-1, which are at the high end of those observed in the SML. This behaviour was also observed when comparing measurements of seawater and lake water by SA voltammetry to surface film pressure (Δγ) measured by tensiometry. These two different methods for assessing the presence of surfactants showed that, while SA generally increases as surface film pressure increases, the correlation is poor and SA values plateau above ∼2 mg L-1 TX-100 eq. The implications of these results are that SA might not accurately capture variations in soluble and insoluble surfactants present in ocean waters.

This preprint has been withdrawn.

Leon King et al.

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Leon King et al.

Leon King et al.

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Short summary
Recent studies suggest that the sea surface microlayer is ubiquitously enriched in surfactants, even at high wind speeds, which exert a control on air-sea gas exchange. These conclusions are partly based on voltammetry measurements of surfactant activity (SA). Here, we show that the response of SA-voltammetry varies widely for different surfactants, becomes saturated above total surfactant concentrations of 1–2 mg L-1, and shows a poor correlation in natural waters with surface film pressure.
Recent studies suggest that the sea surface microlayer is ubiquitously enriched in surfactants,...
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