U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Aerosol Measurement Capabilities Improved in Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Project
Published: June 25, 2003
Posted: July 28, 2003

A research project at Aerodyne Research, Inc. funded by DOE's SBIR program in collaboration with the Office of Science's Atmospheric Science Program has developed and deployed a versatile aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS) that can be mounted in aircraft for use in field campaigns to analyze aerosols in the atmosphere in virtually real time. Aerosols continue to be a major issue in climate change research because they affect the radiation budget of the Earth's atmosphere at local to global scales. Understanding the effects of aerosols, however, has been hindered by the lack of real-time, size-resolved quantitative measurements of their chemical composition. In a number of deployments of the AMS in an aircraft, measurements using the instrument demonstrated its ability to distinguish between aerosols that result from primary (combustion) sources from those due to secondary processes (condensation of volatile organic gases) and to differentiate between small hydrocarbon 'soot' particles from large mixed oxygenated organic/sulfate particles. Such capabilities will enable the identification of regional and local contributions to urban and rural aerosol budgets. The AMS instrument is autonomous, light-weight, and small enough in size to deploy on aircraft limited to small payloads. It is expected to provide in situ measurement capabilities of aerosols for research on aerosol sources and composition, ambient pollution monitoring, chemical and biological warfare agent identification, and other applications.

Contact: Rick Petty, SC-74, 301-903-5548
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-74 Environmental Sciences Division, OBER)


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