How to measure aerosol concentration?

Measuring Aerosol Concentration

Measuring aerosol concentration is critical in various fields, including environmental monitoring, occupational health, and air quality assessment. Aerosols, which are tiny particles or droplets suspended in the air, can greatly impact human health and climate. Various methods and instruments are used to assess aerosol concentration, each with its own principles and applications.

Methods for Measuring Aerosol Concentration

Optical Particle Counters (OPCs): These instruments measure aerosol concentration based on light scattering by particles. A laser beam illuminates the particles, and the scattered light is detected and converted into particle size and concentration information.

Gravimetric Analysis: This is a reference method for measuring particulate matter. Samples are collected on a filter over a certain period, and the increase in filter weight indicates the mass of the collected aerosols.

Condensation Particle Counters (CPCs): CPCs work by saturating the aerosol with vapor and then cooling it down, causing the vapor to condense on particles. This results in particle growth, making them easier to detect and count.

Electrical Mobility Spectrometers: These devices measure aerosol concentration based on the mobility of charged particles in an electrical field. They provide detailed information on particle size distribution.

Beta Attenuation Monitors: These instruments measure the mass concentration of aerosols by detecting the attenuation of beta radiation as it passes through an aerosol-laden filter.

Choosing the Right Method

The choice of method for measuring aerosol concentration depends on the specific requirements of the study or application, such as the size range and concentration of particles, the nature of the aerosols, and the desired temporal and spatial resolution. Optical methods are widely used for real-time monitoring, while gravimetric analysis remains the standard for regulatory measurements of particulate matter.

In conclusion, accurately measuring aerosol concentration is vital for understanding and mitigating the effects of airborne particles on health and the environment. With the advancement of technology, new instruments and methods continue to improve our ability to measure and analyze aerosols accurately and efficiently.


  • Seinfeld, J.H., & Pandis, S.N. (2016). Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change. Wiley.
  • Kulkarni, P., Baron, P.A., & Willeke, K. (Eds.). (2011). Aerosol Measurement: Principles, Techniques, and Applications. Wiley.
  • World Health Organization. (2016). Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease.
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