Extinction Cross Section Measurements for Single Aerosol Particles Confined to a Linear Electrodynamic Quadrupole Trap

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Aerosol particles can both scatter and absorb solar and terrestrial radiation, with scattering having a cooling effect on the atmosphere and absorption a warming effect. The interaction of radiation with absorbing aerosol particles is currently one
of the largest uncertainties in global climate models [1]. Therefore, a new technique will be developed allowing accurate determination of the effect of irradiation of both weakly and strongly absorbing aerosol particles on global climate.
Cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) measurements reported by Cotterell et al., determined refractive index (RI) values for non-absorbing aerosol particles to an accuracy of 0.1% for particles in the 0.5-1 Tm size range [2]. However, confinement
of absorbing aerosol particles proved difficult, owing to photophoretic forces acting on the particles created by the Bessel beam (BB) optical trap employed. During this project, a CRDS set-up utilising an linear electrodynamic quadrupole (LEQ) trap will be developed allowing precise trapping of absorbing particles. The accuracy of the new technique will be validated by comparison with well established measurements of evaporating organic and hygroscopic inorganic species. Work will then begin to determine both the scattering and absorption components of the RI of absorbing aerosol particles, namely brown carbon (BrC) species. Later stages of the project may allow exploration of the mixing state, morphology and processing (e.g. oxidative ageing) dependency of aerosol particle light extinction.

Planned Impact

Aerosol science has a significant impact on a broad range of disciplines, extending from inhaled drug delivery, to combustion science and its health impacts, aerosol assisted routes to materials, climate change, and the delivery of agricultural and consumer products. Estimates of the global aerosol market size suggest it will reach $84 billion/year by 2024 with products in the personal care, household, automotive, food, paints and medical sectors. Air pollution leads to an estimated 30-40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK, and aerosols transmit human and animal infections. More than 12 million people in the UK live with lung disease such as asthma, and the NHS spends ~£5 billion/year on respiratory therapies. Many of the technological, societal and health challenges central to these areas rely on core skills and knowledge of aerosol science. Despite this, an Industrial Workshop and online survey (held in preparation for this bid) highlighted the current doctoral skills gap in aerosol science in the UK. Participating industries reported that only 15% of their employees working with aerosol science at doctoral-level having received any formal training. A CDT in aerosol science, CAS, will fill this skills gap, impacting on all areas of science where core training in aerosol science is crucial.

Impact on the UK aerosol community: Aerosol scientists work across governmental policy, industrial research and innovation, and in academia. Despite the considerable overlap in training needs for researchers working in these diverse sectors, current doctoral training in aerosol science is fragmentary and ad hoc (e.g. the annual Fundamentals of Aerosol Science course delivered by the Aerosol Society). In addition, training occurs within the context of individual disciplines, reinforcing artificial subject boundaries. CAS will bring coherence to training in the core physical and engineering science of aerosols, catalysing new synergies in research, and providing a focal point for training a multidisciplinary community of researchers. Working with the Aerosol Society, we will establish a legacy by providing training resources for future researchers through an online training portal.

Impact on industry and public-sector partners: 45 organisations have indicated they will act as CAS partners with interests in respiratory therapies, public health, materials manufacturing, consumer and agricultural products, instrumentation, emissions and environment. Establishing CAS will deliver researchers with the necessary skills to ensure the UK establishes and sustains a scientific and technical lead in their sectors. Further, it will provide an ideal mechanism for delivering Continuing Professional Development for the existing workforce practitioners. The activity of CAS is aligned to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (e.g. through developing new healthcare technologies and new materials) and the EPSRC Prosperity Outcomes of a productive, healthy (e.g. novel treatments for respiratory disease) and resilient (e.g. adaptations to climate change, air quality) nation, with both the skilled researchers and their science naturally translating to long-lasting impact. Additionally, rigorous training in responsible innovation and ethical standards will lead to aerosol researchers able to contribute to developing: regulatory standards for medicines; policy on air quality and climate geoengineering; and regulations on manufactured nano-materials.

Public engagement: CAS will provide a focal point for engaging the public on topics in aerosol science that affect our daily lives (consumer products, materials) through to our health (inhalation therapeutics, disease transmission and impacts of pollution) and the future of our planet (geoengineering). Supported by a rigorous doctoral level training in aerosol science, this next generation of researchers will be ideally positioned to lead debates on all of these societal and technological challenges.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023593/1 01/04/2019 30/09/2027
2269473 Studentship EP/S023593/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Jamie Knight
Description Novel technique has been presented for retrieval of the optical properties of single absorbing aerosol particles. Comparisons of experimental results with computational models shows good agreement, suggesting the technique works well.

A thorough review of the technique of single particle cavity ring-down spectroscopy has been presented (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jpca.2c01246).
Exploitation Route We have presented a technique to improve constraints of the optical properties of aerosol particles which may subsequently be used by climate modellers etc.
Sectors Environment

URL https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jpca.2c00532
Description 3 Month placement at the MetOffice 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution 3 Months working in the UK Earth System Models (UKESM) section.
Collaborator Contribution Mentoring a 3 month project.
Impact Contribution to UKESM model, specifically creating climatology's from publicly available AERONET data to verify model output and subsequently improve model parameterisations.
Start Year 2022