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dust - asolid particle formed by mechanical disintegration of a parent material, such as in crushing,

grinding and blasting;

fume - solids produced by physicochemical reactions such as combustion, sublimation or distillation;

smoke - visible aerosol produced by some sort of oxidation process such as burning;

fog and mist - liquid particle aerosol produced by the disintegration of liquid or combustion of vapour;

smog - the term is derived from a combination of smoke and fog. It consists of solid and liquid particles
created, at least in part, by photochemical reactions.

Aerosol sources can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary aerosols are those emitted directly
in particulate form from sources such as power stations, motor vehicles etc. Secondary aerosols refer to
particies formed within the atmosphere from condensation of vapours, or as a result of chemical
reaction species.

Nucleation mode, < 0.2 ~m diameter. In this mode particles have recently been either emitted from
processes involving condensation of hot vapours, or freshly formed within the atmosphere by gas to
particle conversion. Such particles account for the preponderance of particles by number, but because
of their small size account for little of the total mass of airbome particles.

Accumulation mode, 0.2 - 2 ~m diameter. These particles have grown from the nucleation mode by
coagulation or condensation of vapours. They generally account for most of the aerosol surface area
and a substantial part of the aerosol mass.

Coarse mode, > 2 ~m diameter. These particies are mainly formed by mechanical attrition processes,
and hence soil dust, sea spray and many industrial dusts fall within this mode.

PM2.5: airborne particulate matter

passing a sampling inlet with a 50%
efficiency cut-off at 2.5 µm aerodynamic
diameter and which transmits particles
of below this size.
This figure below
shows some examples of aerosol particles collected on filters and analyzed under the scanning
electron microscope in collaboration with the Institute of Physics of the University of Sao
Paulo, Brazil. Generally, aerosols cover a broad range of sizes from a few nanometers all the
way to hundreds of micrometers, and all sorts of shapes. Here we show a) particles from the
Sahara desert that traveled in the atmosphere all the way to the Virginian Coast in the US, b)
particles from biomass burning fires in the Amazon during smoldering phase emissions (low
temperature emissions after the fire), c) a large cluster aggregate of biomass burning particles
from the Amazon emitted during flaming phase (high temperature) and collected near the
fire, and d) an example of air pollution particles from China.
The black circles showed in each figure correspond to filter pores, while the aerosol particles
are showed in white or gray tones. The scale on the bottom of each image shows a 1
micrometer reference for the particle size. The mineral dust particles in a) are irregular and
relatively large compared to the remarkably spherical and relatively small smoldering
particles from biomass burning. The biomass burning particles are primarily composed by
transparent organic material with a smaller fraction (5-20%) of an efficient light absorbing
material called “black carbon”. The cluster aggregate can reach several tens of micrometers
near the fire but they usually won't last very long in the atmosphere, usually breaking in
smaller pieces or condensing in more compact particles. Particularly in the Amazon, these
large clusters have not been observed more than a few miles downwind from the fire. The
China pollution particles, collected by in collaboration with the University of Maryland
Baltimore County and College Park, are composed of a blend of spherical particles and
irregular and complex cluster aggregates.