AEROSOL-PARTICLES; AIR-POLLUTION; METALS; FINE
A laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS) was developed for determining the elemental composition of individual airborne particles. The system employs two lasers focused on a narrow beam of particles. A continuous wave laser placed upstream scatters light from particles, while a pulse laserdownstream ablates the particles. The scattered light from the upstream laser is used to trigger the downstream pulse laser, resulting in more accurate hitting of the particles than a free-firing laser system without the triggering signal (i.e., constant pulse laser firing). Various laboratory-generated aerosols (NaCl, MgCl2, KCl, and CaCl2) were used to evaluate the newly developed LIBS system. Particles were tightly focused into a center line with a sheath air focusing system using an optimum aerosol-to-sheath air velocity ratio. The locations of both the scattering laser and pulse laser beams were precisely controlled by a motorized X-Y stage controller. Data showed that for the LIBS with the triggering system, the hitting efficiency (%) of particles (200-600 nm) significantly increased (e.g., 350 nm particles had more than 26 times higher hitting efficiency at 1,000 particles/cm(3)), and much lower limits of particle size (similar to 200 nm) and number concentration (<100 particles/cm(3)) were achieved compared to the free-firing laser condition. Additionally, the hitting rate (hits/min) significantly increased with the triggering system. Our results suggest that the LIBS with the triggering system can be useful for real-time detection of elements of particles existing at low number concentrations (e.g., atmospheric particles) and for the determination of the variation of elemental composition among particles.