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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 11, issue 1 | Copyright
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 33-47, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-11-33-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Jan 2018

Research article | 08 Jan 2018

Electrodynamic balance–mass spectrometry of single particles as a new platform for atmospheric chemistry research

Adam W. Birdsall1, Ulrich K. Krieger2, and Frank N. Keutsch1,3 Adam W. Birdsall et al.
  • 1Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

Abstract. New analytical techniques are needed to improve our understanding of the intertwined physical and chemical processes that affect the composition of aerosol particles in the Earth's atmosphere, such as gas–particle partitioning and homogenous or heterogeneous chemistry, and their ultimate relation to air quality and climate. We describe a new laboratory setup that couples an electrodynamic balance (EDB) to a mass spectrometer (MS). The EDB stores a single laboratory-generated particle in an electric field under atmospheric conditions for an arbitrarily long length of time. The particle is then transferred via gas flow to an ionization region that vaporizes and ionizes the analyte molecules before MS measurement. We demonstrate the feasibility of the technique by tracking evaporation of polyethylene glycol molecules and finding agreement with a kinetic model. Fitting data to the kinetic model also allows determination of vapor pressures to within a factor of 2. This EDB–MS system can be used to study fundamental chemical and physical processes involving particles that are difficult to isolate and study with other techniques. The results of such measurements can be used to improve our understanding of atmospheric particles.

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We have developed a laboratory system that provides mass spectra of individual particles, roughly 20 microns in diameter, after they have been levitated in an electric field. Measured evaporation of polyethylene glycol particles was found to agree with a kinetic model. The system can be used to study fundamental chemical and physical processes involving particles that are difficult to isolate and study with other techniques, and hence improve our understanding of atmospheric particles.
We have developed a laboratory system that provides mass spectra of individual particles,...
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