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J Occup Environ Hyg. 2016 Jul;13(7):501-18. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2016.1148267.

Performance of a scanning mobility particle sizer in measuring diverse types of airborne nanoparticles: Multi-walled carbon nanotubes, welding fumes, and titanium dioxide spray.

Author information

1
a Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health , Morgantown , West Virginia.

Abstract

Direct-reading instruments have been widely used for characterizing airborne nanoparticles in inhalation toxicology and industrial hygiene studies for exposure/risk assessments. Instruments using electrical mobility sizing followed by optical counting, e.g., scanning or sequential mobility particle spectrometers (SMPS), have been considered as the "gold standard" for characterizing nanoparticles. An SMPS has the advantage of rapid response and has been widely used, but there is little information on its performance in assessing the full spectrum of nanoparticles encountered in the workplace. In this study, an SMPS was evaluated for its effectiveness in producing "monodisperse" aerosol and its adequacy in characterizing overall particle size distribution using three test aerosols, each mimicking a unique class of real-life nanoparticles: singlets of nearly spherical titanium dioxide (TiO2), agglomerates of fiber-like multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT), and aggregates that constitutes welding fume (WF). These aerosols were analyzed by SMPS, cascade impactor, and by counting and sizing of discrete particles by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The effectiveness of the SMPS to produce classified particles (fixed voltage mode) was assessed by examination of the resulting geometric standard deviation (GSD) from the impactor measurement. Results indicated that SMPS performed reasonably well for TiO2 (GSD = 1.3), but not for MWCNT and WF as evidenced by the large GSD values of 1.8 and 1.5, respectively. For overall characterization, results from SMPS (scanning voltage mode) exhibited particle-dependent discrepancies in the size distribution and total number concentration compared to those from microscopic analysis. Further investigation showed that use of a single-stage impactor at the SMPS inlet could distort the size distribution and underestimate the concentration as shown by the SMPS, whereas the presence of vapor molecules or atom clusters in some test aerosols might cause artifacts by counting "phantom particles." Overall, the information obtained from this study will help understand the limitations of the SMPS in measuring nanoparticles so that one can adequately interpret the results for risk assessments and exposure prevention in an occupational or ambient environment.

KEYWORDS:

Direct-reading instrument; multi-walled carbon nanotubes; nanoparticles; real-time monitoring welding fumes; titanium dioxide

PMID:
26873639
PMCID:
PMC4846517
DOI:
10.1080/15459624.2016.1148267
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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