Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

1 room -- 63 different dust particles? Researchers aim to build dust library

06.10.2011
Researchers recently isolated 63 unique dust particles from their laboratory – and that’s just the beginning.

The chemists were testing a new kind of sensor when dust got stuck inside it, and they discovered that they could measure the composition of single dust particles.

In a recent issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, they describe how the discovery could aid the study respiratory diseases caused by airborne particles.

Most dust is natural in origin, explained James Coe, professor of chemistry at Ohio State University. The 63 particles they identified were mainly irregular blobs containing bits of many different ingredients.

The most common ingredient of the dust particles was organic matter, Coe said. “Organic” indicates some kind of plant or animal material, though the researchers can’t yet say precisely what kinds of organic matter they found. They are about to do an in-depth analysis to find out.

Quartz was the second-most common ingredient. Both quartz and organic matter were found in more than half of the dust particles the researchers classified. Man-made chemicals from air pollution, fertilizers, and construction materials were also present in small amounts.

“In that way, a single dust particle is like a snapshot of mankind’s impact on the environment,” Coe said.

Scientists have had some difficulty getting precise measurements of dust composition, in part because standard techniques involve studying dust in bulk quantities rather than individual particles.

Nowhere is dust composition more important than in public health, where some airborne particulates have been linked to diseases. Coe cited silica dust from mining operations, which causes a lung disease called silicosis.

The patented sensor that Coe’s team was testing – a type of metal mesh that transmits infrared light through materials caught in the holes – is ideal for picking up minute details in the composition of single dust grains.

“We can separate particles by size to isolate the ones that are small enough to get into people’s lungs, and look at them in detail,” he added.

Coe didn’t set out to study dust. He and his team invented the metal mesh sensor in 2003, and discovered that they could use it to create surface plasmons – mixtures of conducting electrons and photons. The effect boosts the intensity of light passing through microscopic holes in the mesh, and lets scientists record a detailed infrared light spectrum. Any material stuck in the holes will leave a unique signature on the spectrum, so the sensor can be used to identify the chemicals in microscopic samples.

Early this year, the researchers were testing how light flows through the sensor, and they coated the mesh with a ring of tiny latex spheres to take a baseline measurement. The result should have been a spectrum unique to latex, but instead the spectrum carried the signature of several common minerals due to a single dust particle that had gotten inside the sensor – most likely from the laboratory air.

Coe launched a contest among his students to see who would be the first to take an infrared spectrum of a single dust particle – and an electron microscope image of the same particle. The winner got a free lunch and the chance to name the particle for publication.

Matthew McCormack, then an honors undergraduate student in the lab, won the contest and named the dust particle after his dog, Abby. His study of the particle formed the basis for his honors thesis, and the data has since been used by Coe and other members of the team in publications and presentations.

In subsequent tests, the students were able to isolate and study 63 individual dust particles from the air of their laboratory. The spectra they obtained with the sensor were free of scattering effects and stronger than expected.

The result is a library of common dust components from the lab. Forty of the particles (63 percent) contained organic material. The most common mineral was quartz, which was present in 34 (54 percent) of the particles, followed by carbonates (17 particles, or 27 percent), and gypsum (14 particles, or 22 percent).

Currently, Coe and his team are constructing computer algorithms to better analyze the mineral components and reveal details about the organic components.

A library of common dust components would be useful for many areas of science, he said.

Eventually, researchers in public health could use the sensor as a laboratory tool to analyze dust particles. It could also enable studies in astronomy, geology, environmental science, and atmospheric science.

McCormack is a co-author on the paper, along with Katherine Cilwa, now a postdoctoral researcher in chemistry at the University of Michigan; Michelle Lew, now a doctoral student in chemistry at Indiana University; Christophe Robitaille, now in medical school at the University of Chicago; Lloyd Corwin, a former Ohio State undergraduate student in nuclear engineering; and Marvin Malone, a current doctoral student in Coe’s laboratory.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Contact: James Coe, (614) 292-9489; Coe.1@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

James Coe | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cell Division at High Speed
19.06.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Monitoring biodiversity with sound: how machines can enrich our knowledge
18.06.2019 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Successfully Tested in Praxis: Bidirectional Sensor Technology Optimizes Laser Material Deposition

The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.

Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new force for optical tweezers awakens

19.06.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New AI system manages road infrastructure via Google Street View

19.06.2019 | Information Technology

A new manufacturing process for aluminum alloys

19.06.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>