Physical characteristics of small ions and their interaction with ultrafine particles in the urban environment

Ling, Xuan (2010) Physical characteristics of small ions and their interaction with ultrafine particles in the urban environment. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


In recent years, the effect of ions and ultrafine particles on ambient air quality and human health has been well documented, however, knowledge about their sources, concentrations and interactions within different types of urban environments remains limited. This thesis presents the results of numerous field studies aimed at quantifying variations in ion concentration with distance from the source, as well as identifying the dynamics of the particle ionisation processes which lead to the formation of charged particles in the air. In order to select the most appropriate measurement instruments and locations for the studies, a literature review was also conducted on studies that reported ion and ultrafine particle emissions from different sources in a typical urban environment.

The initial study involved laboratory experiments on the attachment of ions to aerosols, so as to gain a better understanding of the interaction between ions and particles. This study determined the efficiency of corona ions at charging and removing particles from the air, as a function of different particle number and ion concentrations. The results showed that particle number loss was directly proportional to particle charge concentration, and that higher small ion concentrations led to higher particle deposition rates in all size ranges investigated. Nanoparticles were also observed to decrease with increasing particle charge concentration, due to their higher Brownian mobility and subsequent attachment to charged particles.

Given that corona discharge from high voltage powerlines is considered one of the major ion sources in urban areas, a detailed study was then conducted under three parallel overhead powerlines, with a steady wind blowing in a perpendicular direction to the lines. The results showed that large sections of the lines did not produce any corona at all, while strong positive emissions were observed from discrete components such as a particular set of spacers on one of the lines. Measurements were also conducted at eight upwind and downwind points perpendicular to the powerlines, spanning a total distance of about 160m. The maximum positive small and large ion concentrations, and DC electric field were observed at a point 20 m downwind from the lines, with median values of 4.4×103 cm-3, 1.3×103 cm-3 and 530 V m-1, respectively. It was estimated that, at this point, less than 7% of the total number of particles was charged. The electrical parameters decreased steadily with increasing downwind distance from the lines but remained significantly higher than background levels at the limit of the measurements.

Moreover, vehicles are one of the most prevalent ion and particle emitting sources in urban environments, and therefore, experiments were also conducted behind a motor vehicle exhaust pipe and near busy motorways, with the aim of quantifying small ion and particle charge concentration, as well as their distribution as a function of distance from the source. The study found that approximately equal numbers of positive and negative ions were observed in the vehicle exhaust plume, as well as near motorways, of which heavy duty vehicles were believed to be the main contributor. In addition, cluster ion concentration was observed to decrease rapidly within the first 10-15 m from the road and ion-ion recombination and ion-aerosol attachment were the most likely cause of ion depletion, rather than dilution and turbulence related processes.

In addition to the above-mentioned dominant ion sources, other sources also exist within urban environments where intensive human activities take place. In this part of the study, airborne concentrations of small ions, particles and net particle charge were measured at 32 different outdoor sites in and around Brisbane, Australia, which were classified into seven different groups as follows: park, woodland, city centre, residential, freeway, powerlines and power substation. Whilst the study confirmed that powerlines, power substations and freeways were the main ion sources in an urban environment, it also suggested that not all powerlines emitted ions, only those with discrete corona discharge points. In addition to the main ion sources, higher ion concentrations were also observed environments affected by vehicle traffic and human activities, such as the city centre and residential areas. A considerable number of ions were also observed in a woodland area and it is still unclear if they were emitted directly from the trees, or if they originated from some other local source. Overall, it was found that different types of environments had different types of ion sources, which could be classified as unipolar or bipolar particle sources, as well as ion sources that co-exist with particle sources. In general, fewer small ions were observed at sites with co-existing sources, however particle charge was often higher due to the effect of ion-particle attachment.

In summary, this study quantified ion concentrations in typical urban environments, identified major charge sources in urban areas, and determined the spatial dispersion of ions as a function of distance from the source, as well as their controlling factors. The study also presented ion-aerosol attachment efficiencies under high ion concentration conditions, both in the laboratory and in real outdoor environments. The outcomes of these studies addressed the aims of this work and advanced understanding of the charge status of aerosols in the urban environment.

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ID Code: 46963
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Morawska, Lidia, Ayoko, Godwin, He, Congrong, & Jayaratne, Emil
Keywords: small ions, large ions, charged particles, electric fields, ultrafine particles, ions dispersion, powerline, freeway, urban environment
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Nov 2011 06:14
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2017 14:41

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