Characterizing the effective density and primary particle diameter of airborne nanoparticles produced by spark discharge using mobility and mass measurements (tandem DMA/APM)

  • Augustin Charvet
  • Sébastien Bau
  • Natalia Estefania Paez Coy
  • Denis Bémer
  • Dominique Thomas
Research Paper


Nanoparticles are increasingly used in a wide variety of industries. As yet, their health effects are incompletely characterized. Effective density is among the key characteristics of airborne nanoparticles due to its role in particle deposition in the human respiratory tract and in the conversion of number distributions to mass distributions. Because it cannot be measured directly, different methods have been developed to accede to this parameter. The approach chosen in this study is based on the tandem measurement of airborne nanoparticles electrical mobility and mass (tandem differential mobility analyzer/aerosol particle mass analyzer), which major advantage lies in the absence of hypothesis contrary to the tandem differential mobility analyzer/electrical low pressure impactor (DMA/ELPI). The methodology was first applied to spherical model particles to validate the associated data treatment and protocol. In particular, the influence of APM rotational velocity and airflow rate were investigated with regards to the separation of multiply charged particles and electrometer signal. It emerged from experimental data that a compromise between separation efficiency and detection limit shall be found, depending on the nanoparticles to characterize. Accounting for their wide use in different domains, airborne nanoparticles of constantan®, copper, graphite, iron, silver and titanium, produced by spark discharge appear to be representative of ultrafine particles stemming from different industrial processes. In addition to their effective density, the mass-mobility exponents and primary particle diameters were determined for these particles, and found to agree well with published data.


Agglomerates Airborne nanoparticles Effective density Spark discharge Primary particle diameter Particle size measurement Health effects 



The authors are grateful to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) for financial support for our project (agreement no. 11-81-C0084). We also thank Wenxin Sun for analysis of HRTEM micrographs as part of a collaboration between the Reactions and Chemical Engineering Laboratory (LRGP) and the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augustin Charvet
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sébastien Bau
    • 3
  • Natalia Estefania Paez Coy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Denis Bémer
    • 3
  • Dominique Thomas
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université de Lorraine, Laboratoire Réactions et Génie des ProcédésNancyFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, Laboratoire Réactions et Génie des ProcédésNancyFrance
  3. 3.Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité (INRS)Vandœuvre-lès-NancyFrance

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