Characterization of dust particles’ 3D shape and roughness with nanometer resolution

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Mineral dust particles in the atmosphere are often aspherical and their shape is important for a multitude of processes. Yet, measurements of the true shape in three dimensions are rare, even in a laboratory setting. Here, we employ atomic force microscopy to determine the 3D shape and surface roughness for two dusts commonly used in laboratory experiments, Arizona test dust (ATD) and kaolinite. Our major finding is that both are thin and remarkably smooth. An oblate spheroidal description is an excellent fit to these data. We use correlation analysis to further examine the surface properties of the dusts and find essentially no features at horizontal spatial scales between ∼10 and 100 nm. This surprising result is supported by the agreement between our specific surface area and BET surface area measurements. The thin, smooth, spheroidal approximation has many implications for physical processes in the atmosphere, including dust transport and radiative transfer.

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Copyright 2015 American Association for Aerosol Research. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1080/02786826.2015.1017550

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Aerosol Science and Technology