Silicon is a frequent component of atmospheric nanoparticles

Bryan R. Bzdek, Andrew J. Horan, M. Ross Pennington, Nathan J. Janechek, Jaemeen Baek, Charles O. Stanier, Murray V. Johnston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Nanoparticles are the largest fraction of aerosol loading by number. Knowledge of the chemical components present in nanoparticulate matter is needed to understand nanoparticle health and climatic impacts. In this work, we present field measurements using the Nano Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (NAMS), which provides quantitative elemental composition of nanoparticles around 20 nm diameter. NAMS measurements indicate that the element silicon (Si) is a frequent component of nanoparticles. Nanoparticulate Si is most abundant in locations heavily impacted by anthropogenic activities. Wind direction correlations suggest the sources of Si are diffuse, and diurnal trends suggest nanoparticulate Si may result from photochemical processing of gas phase Si-containing compounds, such as cyclic siloxanes. Atmospheric modeling of oxidized cyclic siloxanes is consistent with a diffuse photochemical source of aerosol Si. More broadly, these observations indicate a previously overlooked anthropogenic source of nanoaerosol mass. Further investigation is needed to fully resolve its atmospheric role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11137-11145
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2014


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