Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Holmen, Britt


Ultrafine particle emissions in motor-vehicle exhaust are associated with cardiopulmonary health impacts and increased mortality. The emission, evolution, and exposure-uptake of these particles, one hundred nanometers and smaller in diameter, are fundamentally quantified by the number concentration as a function of particle size. Ultrafine particle number distributions are widely varying and fast changing as they are strongly influenced by local environmental conditions and variation in vehicle operation and maintenance. Research and regulation to quantify and control such emissions rely on measurement of the number distribution of ultrafine particles in vehicle exhaust and by the roadside. Instruments to make such measurements are commercially available, but they are expensive, non-portable, and have slow response times. A new instrument, the NanoAPA, is being developed for these in-situ applications as an inexpensive, portable, and real-time instrument. The instrument is designed to perform ultrafine particle sizing and counting through electronic control of a microfabricated device that charges sampled airborne particles with a corona ionizer and then incrementally size-separates, collects, and counts the number of particles in the aerosol. The focus of this thesis was the development and characterization of the smallest device known that can perform these sizing and counting functions. The device miniaturizes a classical instrument from the aerosol field, the double-condenser of Whipple (1960) used for the sizing and counting of atmospheric ions, into a microfabricated device designed to utilize voltage-and-flowrate-variable electrophoresis to measure ultrafine particle aerosols. Performance characterization of the microfabricated device required development of an apparatus for the generation and conditioning of aerosols appropriate to this application. This Standard Aerosol apparatus was demonstrated to produce repeatable, temperature and humidity stable, charge-neutral, monodisperse exhaust-analog aerosols of particles 10 to 100 nanometer in diameter. The microfabricated device was characterized with the Standard Aerosol apparatus for the operating conditions of 0.1 to 1.5 liter per minute flow rate and 0 to 3000 volt separator voltage. Results of the characterization demonstrated effective selection and collection of solvent droplets in the diameter range 10-100nm. The selection and collection results for engine-exhaust analog particles were inconclusive, likely due to particle re-entrainment. Repeatable measurements of particle number proved elusive, likely due to electrical field interference, the limited particle concentration obtainable from the Standard Aerosol apparatus, and signal-to-noise and temporal stability issues with the electrometer electronics. Recommendations are made for approaches likely to overcome these issues.