Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Environmental and Occupational Health

Major Professor

Yehia Y. Hammad, Sc.D.

Committee Member

Steven P. Mlynarek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas J. Mason, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christos Ferekides, Ph.D.


aerosol, agglomeration, distribution, nanoparticle, SMPS


The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the ability to generate and characterize a nanometer sized aerosol using solutions, suspensions, and a bulk nanopowder, and to research the viability of using an acoustic dry aerosol generator/elutriator (ADAGE) to aerosolize a bulk nanopowder into a nanometer sized aerosol. The research compares the results from a portable scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS) to the more traditional method of counting and sizing particles on a filter sample using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Sodium chloride aerosol was used for the comparisons. The sputter coating thickness, a conductive coating necessary for SEM, was measured on different sizes of polystyrene latex spheres (PSLS). Aluminum oxide powder was aerosolized using an ADAGE and several different support membranes and sound frequency combinations were explored.

A portable SMPS was used to determine the size distributions of the generated aerosols. Polycarbonate membrane (PCM) filter samples were collected for subsequent SEM analysis. The particle size distributions were determined from photographs of the membrane filters. SMPS data and membrane samples were collected simultaneously. The sputter coating thicknesses on four different sizes of PSLS, range 57 nanometers (nm) to 220 nm, were measured using transmission electron microscopy and the results from the SEM and SMPS were compared after accounting for the sputter coating thickness. Aluminum oxide nanopowder (20 nm) was aerosolized using a modified ADAGE technique. Four different support membranes and four different sound frequencies were tested with the ADAGE. The aerosol was collected onto PCM filters and the samples were examined using SEM.

The results indicate that the SMPS and SEM distributions were log-normally distributed with a median diameter of approximately 42 nm and 55 nm, respectively, and geometric standard deviations (GSD) of approximately 1.6 and 1.7, respectively. The two methods yielded similar distributional trends with a difference in median diameters of approximately 11 - 15 nm. The sputter coating thickness on the different sizes of PSLSs ranged from 15.4 - 17.4 nm. The aerosols generated, using the modified ADAGE, were low in concentration. The particles remained as agglomerates and varied widely in size. An aluminum foil support membrane coupled with a high sound frequency generated the smallest agglomerates.

A well characterized sodium chloride aerosol was generated and was reproducible. The distributions determined using SEM were slightly larger than those obtained from SMPS, however, the distributions had relatively the same shape as reflected in their GSDs. This suggests that a portable SMPS is a suitable method for characterizing a nanoaerosol. The sizing techniques could be compared after correcting for the effects of the sputter coating necessary for SEM examination. It was determined that the sputter coating thickness on nano-sized particles and particles up to approximately 220 nm can be expected to be the same and that the sputter coating can add considerably to the size of a nanoparticle. This has important implications for worker health where nanoaerosol exposure is a concern. The sputter coating must be considered when SEM is used to describe a nanoaerosol exposure. The performance of the modified ADAGE was less than expected. The low aerosol output from the ADAGE prevented a more detailed analysis and was limited to only a qualitative comparison. Some combinations of support membranes and sound frequencies performed better than others, particularly conductive support membranes and high sound frequencies. In conclusion, a portable SMPS yielded results similar to those obtained by SEM. The sputter coating was the same thickness on the PSLSs studied. The sputter coating thickness must be considered when characterizing nanoparticles using SEM. Finally, a conductive support membrane and higher frequencies appeared to generate the smallest agglomerates using the ADAGE technique.