, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 53-59

Rationale and principle of an instrument measuring lung deposited nanoparticle surface area

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Abstract

The risk of nanoparticles by inhalation for human health is still being debated but some evidences of risk on specific properties of particles <100 nm diameter exist. One of the nanoparticle parameters discussed by toxicologists is their surface area concentration as a relevant property for e.g. causing inflammation. Concentrations of these small particles (~ <100 nm) are currently not measured, since the mass concentrations of these small particles are normally low despite large surface area concentrations.

Airborne particles will always be polydisperse and show a size distribution. Size is normally described by an equivalent diameter to include deviations in properties from ideal spherical particles. Here only nanoparticles below a certain size to be defined are of interest. Total concentration measures are determined by integration over the size range of interest. The ideal instrument should measure the particles according to the size weighting of the wanted quantity. Besides for the geometric surface area the wanted response function can be derived for the lung deposited surface area in the alveolar region. This can be obtained by weighting the geometric surface area as a function of particle size with the deposition efficiency for the alveolar region for e.g. a reference worker for work place exposure determination.

The investigation of the performance of an Electrical Aerosol Detector (EAD) for nearly spherical particles showed that its response function is close to the lung deposited surface areas in different regions of the human respiratory system. By changing the ion trap voltage an even better agreement has been achieved. By determining the size dependent response of the instrument as a function of ion trap voltage the operating parameters can be optimized to give the smallest error possible. Since the concept of the instrument is based on spherical particles and idealized lung deposition curves have been used, in all other cases errors will occur, which still have to be defined.

A method is now available which allows in principle the determination of the total deposited surface area in different regions of the lung in real time. It can easily be changed from one deposited region to another by varying the ion trap voltage. It has the potential to become a routine measurement technique for area measurements and personal control in e.g. work place environments.