Mobility analysis of 2 nm to 11 nm aerosol particles with an aspirating drift tube ion mobility spectrometer

Derek R. Oberreit, Peter H. McMurry, Christopher J. Hogan

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19 Scopus citations


We describe the performance of a drift tube-ion mobility spectrometry (DT-IMS) instrument for the measurement of aerosol particles. In DT-IMS, the electrical mobility of a measured particle is inferred directly from the time required for the particle to traverse a drift region, with motion driven by an electrostatic field. Electrical mobility distributions are hence linked to arrival time distributions (ATDs) for particles reaching a detector downstream of the drift region. The developed instrument addresses two obstacles that have limited DT-IMS use for aerosol measurement previously: (1) conventional drift tubes cannot efficiently sample charged particles at ground potential and (2) the sensitivities of commonly used Faraday plate detectors are too low for most aerosols. Obstacle (1) is circumvented by creating a "sample volume" of aerosol for measurement, defined by the streamlines of fluid flow. Obstacle (2) is bypassed by interfacing the end of the drift region with a condensation particle counter. The DT-IMS prototype shows high linearity for arrival time versus inverse electrical mobility (R 2 > 0.99) over the size range tested (2.2-11.1 nm), and measurements compare well with both analytical and numerical models of device performance. A dimensionless calibration curve linking drift time to inverse electrical mobility is developed. In less than 5 s, it is possible to measure 11.1 nm particles, while 2.2 nm particles are analyzable on a subsecond scale. The transmission efficiency is found to be dependent upon electrostatic deposition for short drift times and upon advective losses for long drift times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-118
Number of pages11
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2014


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