X-ray fluorescence spectrometry for high throughput analysis of atmospheric aerosol samples: The benefits of synchrotron X-rays
- ISSN: 05848547
- DOI: 10.1016/j.sab.2008.05.006
The determination of trace element mass concentrations in ambient air with a time resolution higher than one day represents an urgent need in atmospheric research. It involves the application of a specific technique both for the aerosol sampling and the subsequent analysis of the collected particles. Beside the intrinsic sensitivity of the analytical method, the sampling interval and thus the quantity of collected material that is available for subsequent analysis is a major factor driving the overall trace element detection power. This is demonstrated for synchrotron radiation X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (SR-XRF) of aerosol samples collected with a rotating drum impactor (RDI) in hourly intervals and three particle size ranges. The total aerosol mass on the 1-h samples is in the range of 10 mu g. An experimental detection of the nanogram amounts of trace elements with the help of synchrotron X-rays was only achievable by the design of a fit-for-purpose sample holder system, which considered the boundary conditions both from particle sampling and analysis. A 6-mu m polypropylene substrate film has evolved as substrate of choice, due to its practical applicability during sampling and its suitable spectroscopic behavior. In contrast to monochromatic excitation conditions, the application of a 'white' beam led to a better spectral signal-to-background ratio. Despite the low sample mass, a counting time of less than 30 s per 1-h aerosol sample led to sufficient counting statistics. Therefore the RDI-SR-XRF method represents a high-throughput analysis procedure without the need for any sample preparation. The analysis of a multielemental mass standard film by SR-XRF, laboratory-based wavelength-dispersive XRF spectrometry and laboratory-based micro XRF spectrometry showed that the laboratory-based methods were no alternatives to the SR-XRF method with respect to sensitivity and efficiency of analysis. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.