On-line analysis of ambient air aerosols using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy

J. E. Carranza, B. T. Fisher, G. D. Yoder, D. W. Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy is developed for the detection of aerosols in ambient air, including quantitative mass concentration measurements and size/composition measurements of individual aerosol particles. Data are reported for ambient air aerosols containing aluminum, calcium, magnesium and sodium for a 6-week sampling period spanning the Fourth of July holiday period. Measured mass concentrations for these four elements ranged from 1.7 parts per trillion (by mass) to 1.7 parts per billion. Ambient air concentrations of magnesium and aluminum revealed significant increases during the holiday period, which are concluded to arise from the discharge of fireworks in the lower atmosphere. Real-time conditional data analysis yielded increases in analyte spectral intensity approaching 3 orders of magnitude. Analysis of single particles yielded composition-based aerosol size distributions, with measured aerosol diameters ranging from 100 nm to 2 μm. The absolute mass detection limits for single particle analysis exceeded sub-femtogram values for calcium-containing particles, and was on the order of 2-3 femtograms for magnesium and sodium-based particles. Overall, LIBS-based analysis of ambient air aerosols is a promising technique for the challenging issues associated with the real-time collection and analysis of ambient air particulate matter data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-864
Number of pages14
JournalSpectrochimica Acta - Part B Atomic Spectroscopy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 29 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerosol
  • Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
  • Particulate matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Spectroscopy


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