2022 journal article

Laser-driven ionization mechanisms of aluminum for single particle aerosol mass spectrometry


By: A. Lietz*, B. Yee*, J. Musk II, H. Moffat*, D. Wiemann*, T. Settecerri*, D. Fergenson, M. Omana*, M. Hopkins*

author keywords: Aerosol mass spectrometry; Plasma modeling; Laser-produced plasmas; Laser desorption ionization
Source: Web Of Science
Added: November 14, 2022

Single particle aerosol mass spectrometry (SPAMS), an analytical technique for measuring the size and composition of individual micron-scale particles, is capable of analyzing atmospheric pollutants and bioaerosols much more efficiently and with more detail than conventional methods which require the collection of particles onto filters for analysis in the laboratory. Despite SPAMS’ demonstrated capabilities, the primary mechanisms of ionization are not fully understood, which creates challenges in optimizing and interpreting SPAMS signals. In this paper, we present a well-stirred reactor model for the reactions involved with the laser-induced vaporization and ionization of an individual particle. The SPAMS conditions modeled in this paper include a 248 nm laser which is pulsed for 8 ns to vaporize and ionize each particle in vacuum. The ionization of 1 μm, spherical Al particles was studied by approximating them with a 0-dimensional plasma chemistry model. The primary mechanism of absorption of the 248 nm photons was pressure-broadened direct photoexcitation to Al(y2D). Atoms in this highly excited state then undergo superelastic collisions with electrons, heating the electrons and populating the lower energy excited states. We found that the primary ionization mechanism is electron impact ionization of various excited state Al atoms, especially Al(y2D). Because the gas expands rapidly into vacuum, its temperature decreases rapidly. The rate of three-body recombination (e− + e− + Al+ → Al + e−) increases at low temperature, and most of the electrons and ions produced recombine within several μs of the laser pulse. The importance of the direct photoexcitation indicates that the relative peak heights of different elements in SPAMS mass spectra may be sensitive to the available photoexcitation transitions. The effects of laser intensity, particle diameter, and expansion dynamics are also discussed.