Particle size and chemical composition effects on elemental analysis with the nano aerosol mass spectrometer

In the Nano Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (NAMS), particles are irradiated with a high energy laser pulse to produce a plasma that quantitatively disintegrates each particle into positively charged atomic ions. Previous work with this method used electrodynamic focusing and trapping of particles 30 nm dia. and below. In the current work, an aerodynamic focusing inlet was used to study particles between 40 and 150 nm dia. The distribution of atomic ion charge states was found to be particle size dependent, shifting toward lower charges with increasing size. This shift also affected the calibration by which elemental composition was determined from atomic ion signal intensities. Size independent calibration could be achieved by restricting the analysis to particles that gave more than 90% of the total signal intensity as multiply charged ions. This approach worked best for particles smaller than about 100 nm dia. since most spectra met this criterion. For the nanoparticles studied, the elemental mole fractions of Group I and II metals, halogens, and low atomic mass nonmetals could be determined within 10% or less of the expected value when the mole fraction was at the 1% level or greater. Some transition and heavy metals could not be quantified, while others could. Quantification appeared to be dependent on the ability of the element to be vaporized. Elements with high melting and boiling points gave particle mass spectra similar to those obtained by laser desorption ionization—mostly singly charged ions with relative intensities strongly biased toward atoms with low ionization energies.

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