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Fragmentation and bond strength of airborne diesel soot agglomerates

Fragmentation and bond strength of airborne diesel soot agglomerates

S. Rothenbacher, A. Messerer, G. Kasper


Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 2008, 5/9

Background: The potential of diesel soot aerosol particles to break up into smaller units under mechanical stress was investigated by a direct impaction technique which measures the degree of fragmentation of individual agglomerates vs. impact energy. Diesel aerosol was generated by an idling diesel engine used for passenger vehicles. Both the aerosol emitted directly and aerosol that had undergone additional growth by Brownian coagulation ("aging") was investigated. Optionally a thermo-desoption technique at 280°C was used to remove all high-volatility and the majority of low-volatility HC adsorbates from the aerosol before aging.
Results: It was found that the primary soot agglomerates emitted directly from the engine could not be fragmented at all. Soot agglomerates permitted to grow additionally by Brownian coagulation of the primary emitted particles could be fragmented to a maximum of 75% and 60% respectively, depending on whether adsorbates were removed from their surface prior to aging or not. At most, these aged agglomerates could be broken down to roughly the size of the agglomerates from the primary emission. The energy required for a 50% fragmentation probability of all bonds within an agglomerate was reduced by roughly a factor of 2 when aging "dry" agglomerates. Average bond energies derived from the data were 0.52*10-16 and 1.2*10-16 J, respectively. This is about 2 orders of magnitude higher than estimates for pure van-der-Waals agglomerates, but agrees quite well with other observations.
Conclusion: Although direct conclusions regarding the behavior of inhaled diesel aerosol in contact with body fluids cannot be drawn from such measurements, the results imply that highly agglomerated soot aerosol particles are unlikely to break up into units smaller than roughly the size distribution emitted as tail pipe soot.