Atomic force and scanning electron microscopy of atmospheric particles

Microsc Res Tech. 2005 Oct;68(2):107-14. doi: 10.1002/jemt.20241.


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) have been used for both morphological and elemental mass analysis study of atmospheric particles. As part of the geometrical particle analysis, and in addition to the traditional height profile measurement of individual particles, AFM was used to measure the volume relative to the projection area for each particle separately, providing a particle shape model. The element identification was done by the EDS analysis, and the element mass content was calculated based on laboratory calibration with particles of known composition. The SEM-EDS mass measurements from two samples collected at 150 and 500 m above the surface of the Mediterranean Sea were found to be similar to mass calculations derived from the AFM volume measurements. The AFM results show that the volume of most of the aerosols that were identified as soluble marine sulfate and nitrate aerosol particles can be better estimated using cylindrical shapes than spherical or conical geometry.