Facile method for determining the aspect ratios of mineral dust aerosol by electron microscopy

Daniel P. Veghte, Miriam Arak Freedman

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33 Scopus citations


Mineral dust is the second largest atmospheric emission by mass and one of the least understood sources. The shape of the particles depends on their composition and has implications for particle optical properties and reactive surface area. Mineral dust particles are often approximated as spheroids to model their optical properties. In this study, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is used to measure the aspect ratios of calcite, quartz, NX-illite, kaolinite (KGa-1b and KGa-2), and montmorillonite (STx-1b and SWy-2). In addition to traditional SEM images of the top of the particles, the SEM infstrates are oriented approximately normal to the electron beam in order to image the side of the particles. In this manner, aspect ratios for the top and side orientation of the particles are determined. Calcite particles have an aspect ratio of approximately 1.3 in both orientations, while quartz particles have an aspect ratio of 1.38 in the top orientation and 1.64 in the side orientation. The clay minerals studied all exhibited plate-like structures with aspect ratios of 1.35 to 1.44 for the top orientation and 4.80 to 9.14 for the side orientation. These values are used to estimate the specific surface areas (SSAs) of the minerals, which are compared to Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area measurements. Through this study, we present a simple method for determining the aspect ratios of aerosolized samples, rather than relying on literature values of model systems. As a result, this technique should provide a better method for determining the optical properties of mineral dust particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-724
Number of pages10
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 3 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Pollution


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