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J Phys Chem A. 2008 Jan 31;112(4):669-77. doi: 10.1021/jp077308y. Epub 2008 Jan 4.

"Depth-profiling" and quantitative characterization of the size, composition, shape, density, and morphology of fine particles with SPLAT, a single-particle mass spectrometer.

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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99354, USA.


A significant fraction of atmospheric particles are composed of inorganic substances that are mixed or coated with organic compounds. The properties and behavior of these particles depend on the internal composition and arrangement of the specific constituents in each particle. It is important to know which constituent is on the surface and whether it covers the particle surface partially or entirely. We demonstrate here an instrument consisting of an ultrasensitive single-particle mass spectrometer coupled with a differential mobility analyzer to quantitatively measure in real time individual particle composition, size, density, and shape and to determine which substance is on the surface and whether it entirely covers the particle. For this study, we use NaCl particles completely coated with liquid dioctyl phthalate to generate spherical particles, and NaCl particles partially coated with pyrene, a solid poly aromatic hydrocarbon, to produce aspherical particles with pyrene nodules and an exposed NaCl core. We show that the behavior of the mass spectral intensities as a function of laser fluence yields information that can be used to determine the morphological distribution of individual particle constituents.

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