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Temporal evolution of nanoparticle aerosols in workplace exposure

Temporal evolution of nanoparticle aerosols in workplace exposure

M. Seipenbusch, A. Binder, G. Kasper


Ann. Occup. Hyg., 2008, Vol. 52, No. 8, 707-716

The evolution in time of a nanoparticle (NP) aerosol released into a simulated workplace environment was investigated for different starting scenarios including (i) NP release into a particlefree atmosphere and (ii) release in presence of a pre-existing background aerosol. In each case, particle number distributions and total number concentrations in a 2 m3 aerosol chamber were monitored over several hours. On the time scale and under the conditions relevant for workplace exposure, collisions between NP within their own size class and, if present, with the background aerosol were identified as the most important mechanism driving the change in particle size and number concentration. A model has been formulated on the basis of well-known aerosol dynamic principles to predict the evolution of NP number concentration for a defined source and a defined environment (a given background aerosol concentration). A dimensionless number is introduced to scale the rate of NP concentration change relative to background aerosol concentration and particle size, which scales inversely with the concentration of free NP in the atmosphere. Beyond the physical change, the emergence of binary agglomerates constitutes a change in chemical composition of the aerosol. It is shown that the NPs are still chemically present in the aerosol after becoming attached to background particles, thus remaining airborne while being invisible in the size distribution.