Electrical mobility spectrometer using a diethylene glycol condensation particle counter for measurement of aerosol size distributions down to 1 nm

Jingkun Jiang, Modi Chen, Chongai Kuang, Michel Attoui, Peter H. McMurry

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144 Scopus citations


We report a new scanning mobility particle spectrometer (SMPS) for measuring number size distributions of particles down to ∼1 nm mobility diameter. This SMPS includes an aerosol charger, a TSI 3085 nano differential mobility analyzer (nanoDMA), an ultrafine condensation particle counter (UCPC) using diethylene glycol (DEG) as the working fluid, and a conventional butanol CPC (the "booster") to detect the small droplets leaving the DEG UCPC. The response of the DEG UCPC to negatively charged sodium chloride particles with mobility diameters ranging from 1-6 nm was measured. The sensitivity of the DEG UCPC to particle composition was also studied by comparing its response to positively charged 1.47 and 1.70 nm tetra-alkyl ammonium ions, sodium chloride, and silver particles. A high resolution differential mobility analyzer was used to generate the test particles. These results show that the response of this UCPC to sub-2 nm particles is sensitive to particle composition. The applicability of the new SMPS for atmospheric measurement was demonstrated during the Nucleation and Cloud Condensation Nuclei (NCCN) field campaign (Atlanta, Georgia, summer 2009). We operated the instrument at saturator and condenser temperatures that allowed the efficient detection of sodium chloride particles but not of air ions having the same mobility. We found that particles as small as 1 nm were detected during nucleation events but not at other times. Factors affecting size distribution measurements, including aerosol charging in the 1-10 nm size range, are discussed. For the charger used in this study, bipolar charging was found to be more effective for sub-2 nm particles than unipolar charging. No ion induced nucleation inside the charger was observed during the NCCN campaign.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-521
Number of pages12
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received 22 July 2010; accepted 12 September 2010. This work was supported by a grant from US NSF (ATM-0506674) and US DOE grant DE-FG-05ER63997. Address correspondence to Jingkun Jiang, School of Environmental Science & Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084 China. E-mail: jiangjk@tsinghua.edu.cn


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