Characterization of trace metals in airborne carbonaceous aerosols by single-particle EDX – Scanning Electron Microscopy
Institute for Atmospheric Pollution Research, National research Council (C.N.R.), Monterotondo (Rome), 00016, Italy
The presence of fine and ultrafine metal particles has been evidenced in size segregated airborne carbonaceous aerosols collected at one industrial and two background (urban and rural) sites during an extended field campaign in Central Italy. Analysis of the backscattered electrons (BSE) by SEM – EDX demonstrated an effective potential in evidencing main structural features of the metal content in identified carbon aerosols. Many observed ultrafine metal particles appear embedded in the skeleton of carbonaceous individual particles and aggregates in the coarse fraction, while the same is not evident in the case of mixed carbon-sulphates aerosol that has been detected in the submicron size. These carbon-sulphates formations include indeed nano-sized metal particles that appear physically combined but not embedded. Also, larger metal particles (ranging around 1 μm physical size) were observed close to carbon materials, but not included in their structure. Main compositional differences of metal particles with size segregation could be evidenced by energy – dispersive X ray spectrometry (EDX). Larger particles are mainly rich in Fe, frequently in presence of Mn, Cu, Cr and Zn in variable proportions; either oxidized or elemental metals were detected. On the other hand, ultrafine particles associated with carbon–sulphates aerosol are enriched in Pb and Zn, although the presence of other trace elements not detectable by SEM – EDX technique cannot be excluded. Moreover, Ce-enriched ultrafine particles were clearly determined in cenospheres. Conversely, inclusion of fine and ultrafine metal particles was rarely or not observed in soot aggregates.
Key words: carbonaceous aerosol / trace metals / scanning electron microscopy / backscatter analysis
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2013
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