Magnetic characterisation of London's airborne nanoparticulate matter

Muxworthy, A.R. and Lam, C. and Green, D. and Cowan, A. and Maher, B.A. and Gonet, T. (2022) Magnetic characterisation of London's airborne nanoparticulate matter. Atmospheric Environment, 287. ISSN 1352-2310

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Iron-bearing particulate matter produced by vehicle emissions is known to be toxic. To better quantify potential health risks, we have conducted the first magnetic study of a time-series of London's inhalable particulate matter (<10 μm, PM 10), captured by three monitoring stations in central London (Marylebone Road, Earl's Court Road and Oxford Street) through 2010 and 2012. We conducted room-temperature analysis on all the samples, and a limited number of samples were analysed at both high and low temperatures. The high-temperature measurements identified magnetite as the dominant magnetic phase. The low-temperature measurements revealed high numbers of nanoparticles, which, assuming magnetite, are in the grain-size range 1–4 nm. It is estimated that as much as ∼40% of the total magnetic signal at 10 K is from particles <4 nm, that are magnetically ‘invisible’ at room-temperature and are being routinely under-estimated in room temperature-based magnetic studies. From the low-temperature measurements, the total concentration of magnetite was estimated at ∼7.5%, significantly higher than previously reported. The room-temperature magnetic data were compared with other pollution data, e.g., NO X and PM 10, and meteorological data. Mass-dependent terms like the saturation magnetisation were found to display a strong correlation with NO X and PM 10, indicating a common source for these pollutants, i.e., vehicle emissions. Magnetic coercivity measurements, which are independent of abundance, and provide information on grain-size, were consistent across all three sampling localities, again suggesting a major dominant source. Relatively small variations in coercivity were correlated with meteorological events, e.g., temperature and precipitation, suggesting preferential removal of larger airborne grains, i.e., >50 nm.

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Journal Article
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Atmospheric Environment
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18 Aug 2022 08:15
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 03:17