Characterization of size-segregated aerosols using ToF-SIMS imaging and depth profiling

Wenjuan Cheng, Lu Tao Weng, Yongjie Li, Arthur Lau, Chak Chan, Chi Ming Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Size-segregated particles were collected with a ten-stage micro-orifice uniform deposit impactor from a busy walkway in a downtown area of Hong Kong. The surface chemical compositions of aerosol samples from each stage were analyzed using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) operated in the static mode. The ToF-SIMS spectra of particles from stage 2 (5.6-10 μm), stage 6 (0.56-1 μm), and stage 10 (0.056-0.1 μm) were compared, and the positive ion spectra from stage 2 to stage 10 were analyzed with principal component analysis (PCA). Both spectral analysis and PCA results show that the coarse-mode particles were associated with inorganic ions, while the fine particles were associated with organic ions. PCA results further show that the particle surface compositions were size dependent. Particles from the same mode exhibited more similar surface features. Particles from stage 2 (5.6-10 μm), stage 6 (0.56-1 μm), and stage 10 (0.056-0.1 μm) were further selected as representatives of the three modes, and the chemical compositions of these modes of particles were examined using ToF-SIMS imaging and depth profiling. The results reveal a non-uniform chemical distribution from the outer to the inner layer of the particles. The coarse-mode particles were shown to contain inorganic salts beneath the organics surface. The accumulation-mode particles contained sulfate, nitrate, ammonium salts, and silicate in the regions below a thick surface layer of organic species. The nucleation-mode particles consisted mainly of soot particles with a surface coated with sulfate, hydrocarbons, and, possibly, fullerenic carbon. The study demonstrated the capability of ToF-SIMS depth profiling and imaging in characterizing both the surface and the region beneath the surface of aerosol particles. It also revealed the complex heterogeneity of chemical composition in size and depth distributions of atmospheric particles. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-488
Number of pages9
JournalSurface and Interface Analysis
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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