The Size of Suspended Particulate Matter in Air

Science  10 Nov 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4061, pp. 567-575
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4061.567


By means of the NASN cascade impactor the particle sizes of ambient aerosols can be measured by fractionating the particles according to their aerodynamic dimensions, and the fractions can be quantified gravimetrically. Data obtained with this instrument show that particulate matter suspended in urban air in the United States and Great Britain is remarkably uniform in distribution and that the particles are predominantly less than 1 µm in diameter. In Ankara, Turkey, the high proportion of particles larger than 1 µm in diameter are associated with the incomplete combustion of lignite; particulate concentrations in Ankara, however, are considerably higher than those measured elsewhere. The growth of particles in air during temperature inversions occurs in Cincinnati; the greater proportion of large particles found there during inversion periods can account for the reduction in visibility. Aerosols in the vicinity of highways are composed of particles larger than those found some distance away because of the reentrainment of debris by the traffic-induced turbulence. On the other hand, highway configuration and traffic volume have little effect on the size distribution of aerosols in samples collected away from the turbulence area of the roadway. Aerosols measured inside buildings are predominantly smaller in size and exhibit a narrower range of sizes than aerosols outside buildings.