Electronic cigarette aerosol particle size distribution measurements

Inhal Toxicol. 2012 Dec;24(14):976-84. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2012.744781.


The particle size distribution of aerosols produced by electronic cigarettes was measured in an undiluted state by a spectral transmission procedure and after high dilution with an electrical mobility analyzer. The undiluted e-cigarette aerosols were found to have particle diameters of average mass in the 250-450 nm range and particle number concentrations in the 10(9) particles/cm(3) range. These measurements are comparable to those observed for tobacco burning cigarette smoke in prior studies and also measured in the current study with the spectral transmission method and with the electrical mobility procedure. Total particulate mass for the e-cigarettes calculated from the size distribution parameters measured by spectral transmission were in good agreement with replicate determinations of total particulate mass by gravimetric filter collection. In contrast, average particle diameters determined for e-cigarettes by the electrical mobility method are in the 50 nm range and total particulate masses calculated based on the suggested diameters are orders of magnitude smaller than those determined gravimetrically. This latter discrepancy, and the very small particle diameters observed, are believed to result from almost complete e-cigarette aerosol particle evaporation at the dilution levels and conditions of the electrical mobility analysis. A much smaller degree, ~20% by mass, of apparent particle evaporation was observed for tobacco burning cigarette smoke. The spectral transmission method is validated in the current study against measurements on tobacco burning cigarette smoke, which has been well characterized in prior studies, and is supported as yielding an accurate characterization of the e-cigarette aerosol particle size distribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Electronics
  • Equipment Design
  • Fiber Optic Technology
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Nicotiana
  • Particle Size
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Smoke / analysis
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices*
  • Volatilization


  • Aerosols
  • Smoke