A high volume apparatus for the condensational growth of ultrafine particles for inhalation toxicological studies

Philip Demokritou, Tarun Gupta, Petros Koutrakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


A high volume (2500 LPM) system for the condensational growth of ultrafine particles was developed and evaluated using indoor air as a test aerosol. The main features of this system are the following: (a) ultrafine particles grow condensationally to supermicron sizes using high purity deionized water as a condensing medium; (b) the supersaturation ratio is adjustable and can be precisely controlled; (c) the system can operate for a wide range of ambient air temperature and relative humidity conditions; and (d) a thermal dryer is used to return the condensationally grown particles back to their original size. Restoring the original ambient size distribution and preserving the composition of the ambient ultrafine particles is very important for inhalation studies. The system is fully automated and has computerized feedback controls. In addition, saturation of the aerosol with water vapor occurs at close to ambient temperatures to minimize particle losses of volatile components. Saturation of sample air is obtained using a direct steam-injecting, fully modulating electric humidifier. The sample air after saturation is drawn through the supersaturator, which is a refrigerant-to-air heat exchanger and is cooled down to obtain the desirable supersaturation ratio. Supersaturation ratios can be precisely adjusted, with the optimum operational level found to be in the range of 2 to 3. The performance of the system was evaluated as a function of critical operation parameters, including the supersaturation ratio as well as the saturation and supersaturation temperatures. A series of virtual and conventional impactors was used to characterize the condensational growth of ultrafine particles. This new high volume apparatus was shown to grow ambient ultrafine particles to supermicron sizes with a particle size growth of approximately 1.8 μm. Particle losses in the system were found to be minimal (about 10%). The thermal dryer was used successfully to restore the grown particles back to their original size distribution. Particle concentration, aerosol temperature, and residence time (aerosol flow) are key parameters shown to affect the performance of the thermal dryer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1061-1072
Number of pages12
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Pollution


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