Effect of traffic and driving characteristics on morphology of atmospheric soot particles at freeway on-ramps

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Vehicles represent a major source of soot in urban environments. Knowledge of the morphology and mixing of soot particles is fundamental to understand their potential health and climatic impacts. We investigate 5738 single particles collected at six different cloverleaf freeway on-ramps in Southern Michigan, using 2D images from scanning electron microscopy. Of those, 3364 particles are soot. We present an analysis of the morphological and mixing properties of those soot particles. The relative abundance of soot particles shows a positive association with traffic density (number of vehicles per minute). A classification of the mixing state of freshly emitted soot particles shows that most of them are bare (or thinly coated) (72%) and some are partly coated (22%). We find that the fractal dimension of soot particles (one of the most relevant morphological descriptors) varies from site to site, and increases with increasing vehicle specific power that represents the driving/engine load conditions, and with increasing percentage of vehicles older than 15 years. Our results suggest that driving conditions, and vehicle age and type have significant influence on the morphology of soot particles. © 2014 American Chemical Society.

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Environmental Science and Technology