Characterization of metal-bearing diesel nanoparticles using single-particle mass spectrometry

D. Lee, A. Miller, David B Kittelson, M. R. Zachariah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Acute and chronic health effects have been associated with diesel particulate matter (DPM). Since both ultrafine particles and metals have been implicated in this correlation, we are conducting investigations to characterize the metal content of diesel nanoparticles. For this study, DPM was generated by a 1.5 l engine and ferrocene was added to the fuel to raise the level of metal in the system. The exhaust particles were analyzed in real time using a recently developed single-particle mass spectrometer (SPMS) that has the capability of ablating each particle down to its elemental constituents, thereby yielding the relative mass of elements in each particle. Particle-size calibration of the instrument was achieved by correlating the SPMS signal intensity with measured DPM size. Using this approach, we present size- and composition-resolved elemental species distributions for both the nuclei mode and ultrafine portion of the accumulation mode of DPM. Results show that when the fuel is doped with ferrocene, iron-rich nanoparticles are formed and their number and size increase with level of doping. Larger iron-bearing particles are also formed, but it is observed that the metal to carbon ratios increase for smaller particle sizes. Hydrogen to carbon ratios were measured as a function of particle size, which allowed us to determine the relative amounts of organic carbon and elemental carbon in the particles and showed that the hydrogen to carbon ratios increase for smaller sized particles. The combined results are used to discuss the effects of metal doping level and engine load on particle nucleation and mechanisms of DPM formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-110
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Aerosol Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Partial support for this work came from the DURINT Army Center for NanoEnergetics Research (Dr. D. Mann—program manager). The SPMS was constructed from a National Science Foundation equipment grant (Dr. Mike Roco—program manager). D. Lee was partly supported by Pusan National University Research Grant and Core Environmental Technology Development Project for Next Generation (Project No. 102-041-029). NIOSH-Spokane Research Lab provided equipment contributions and a student scholarship for A. Miller.


  • Diesel particulate matter (DPM)
  • Homogeneous nucleation
  • Iron nanoparticles
  • Mechanism of DPM formation
  • Metal
  • Nanoparticles
  • Single-particle mass spectrometry


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