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Airborne Particulate Matter

Multi-Elemental Analysis of Airborne Particulate Matter (APM)


Airborne Particulate Matter (APM)

The continued concern regarding environmental pollution has long since  triggered the development of analytical techniques for monitoring  atmospheric gases to assess the impact of industrial and anthropogenic activities.  The elemental composition of airborne particles, such as metals that have an adverse impact on human health and the environment,  can be monitored to identify an emission source and its impact.  The characterization and quantification of metals in aerosols can be performed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).  This powerful and versatile analytical tool determines the multi-elemental and isotopic trace concentrations in any type of sample- liquid, solid and gaseous.

The use of a gas exchange device [1] allows direct analysis of airborne particles by ICP-MS.  Owing to its fast and multi-elemental detection capabilities, the icpTOF is particularly well suited for such on-line multi-element analysis. Similarly as in single-particle ICP-MS, airborne particles produce short transient signals recognizable as spikes above the baseline, which can then be quantified using adequate calibration. Useful information regarding airborne pollution can be extracted such as particle elemental composition, size and concentration.

[1]  Nishiguchi, K.; Utani, K.; Fujimori, E. Real-time multielement monitoring of airborne particulate matter using ICP-MS instrument equipped with gas converter apparatus. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 2008.


  • Multi-Elemental Analysis of Airborne Particulate Matter (APM) Using the icpTOF

    Conventional Offline Analysis of Aerosols

    • Aerosols are collected on a filter, digested and measured using the icpTOF
    • High sensitivity with large dynamic range, allowing for simultaneous quantification of trace and high abundance elements.
    • High mass resolving power for accurate identification
    • Simultaneous multi-element detection
    • Dedicated workflow for liquid analysis in TOFpilot

    Real-Time Multi-Element Monitoring of Aerosols

    • icpTOF in combination with a gas exchange device (GED)
    • In comparison with bulk analysis, single particle detection provides information about particle size and particle number concentration
    • The icpTOF measures a full mass spectrum per particle without compromise on performance making it a unique tool for complex aerosol analysis.
    • Real-time and fast data output capturing rapid changes in APM
    • Dedicated workflow for particle analysis in TOFpilot

    Figures a) and b) display signals of Ir (red) and Pt (black) from ambient outdoor air and car exhaust recorded with 2.4 ms integration time. The car exhaust was sampled outdoor into the gas sampling bag and measured 10 minutes after sampling. The observed Ir and Pt particles are most likely produced in the catalytic converter. Figures c) and d) show the Ir and Pt particle size distribution for the collected particles, which are most likely produced in the catalytic converter.


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