Formation mechanisms of secondary organic aerosols in relation to laser printer emissions

Wang, Hao (2011) Formation mechanisms of secondary organic aerosols in relation to laser printer emissions. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Due to their large surface area, complex chemical composition and high alveolar deposition rate, ultrafine particles (UFPs) (< 0.1 ìm) pose a significant risk to human health and their toxicological effects have been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation. Since people spend most of their time indoors, there is a growing concern about the UFPs present in some indoor environments. Recent studies have shown that office machines, in particular laser printers, are a significant indoor source of UFPs. The majority of printer-generated UFPs are organic carbon and it is unlikely that these particles are emitted directly from the printer or its supplies (such as paper and toner powder). Thus, it was hypothesised that these UFPs are secondary organic aerosols (SOA). Considering the widespread use of printers and human exposure to these particles, understanding the processes involved in particle formation is of critical importance. However, few studies have investigated the nature (e.g. volatility, hygroscopicity, composition, size distribution and mixing state) and formation mechanisms of these particles. In order to address this gap in scientific knowledge, a comprehensive study including state-of-art instrumental methods was conducted to characterise the real-time emissions from modern commercial laser printers, including particles, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone (O3). The morphology, elemental composition, volatility and hygroscopicity of generated particles were also examined. The large set of experimental results was analysed and interpreted to provide insight into: (1) Emissions profiles of laser printers: The results showed that UFPs dominated the number concentrations of generated particles, with a quasi unimodal size distribution observed for all tests. These particles were volatile, non-hygroscopic and mixed both externally and internally. Particle microanalysis indicated that semi-volatile organic compounds occupied the dominant fraction of these particles, with only trace quantities of particles containing Ca and Fe. Furthermore, almost all laser printers tested in this study emitted measurable concentrations of VOCs and O3. A positive correlation between submicron particles and O3 concentrations, as well as a contrasting negative correlation between submicron particles and total VOC concentrations were observed during printing for all tests. These results proved that UFPs generated from laser printers are mainly SOAs. (2) Sources and precursors of generated particles: In order to identify the possible particle sources, particle formation potentials of both the printer components (e.g. fuser roller and lubricant oil) and supplies (e.g. paper and toner powder) were investigated using furnace tests. The VOCs emitted during the experiments were sampled and identified to provide information about particle precursors. The results suggested that all of the tested materials had the potential to generate particles upon heating. Nine unsaturated VOCs were identified from the emissions produced by paper and toner, which may contribute to the formation of UFPs through oxidation reactions with ozone. (3) Factors influencing the particle emission: The factors influencing particle emissions were also investigated by comparing two popular laser printers, one showing particle emissions three orders of magnitude higher than the other. The effects of toner coverage, printing history, type of paper and toner, and working temperature of the fuser roller on particle number emissions were examined. The results showed that the temperature of the fuser roller was a key factor driving the emission of particles. Based on the results for 30 different types of laser printers, a systematic positive correlation was observed between temperature and particle number emissions for printers that used the same heating technology and had a similar structure and fuser material. It was also found that temperature fluctuations were associated with intense bursts of particles and therefore, they may have impact on the particle emissions. Furthermore, the results indicated that the type of paper and toner powder contributed to particle emissions, while no apparent relationship was observed between toner coverage and levels of submicron particles. (4) Mechanisms of SOA formation, growth and ageing: The overall hypothesis that UFPs are formed by reactions with the VOCs and O3 emitted from laser printers was examined. The results proved this hypothesis and suggested that O3 may also play a role in particle ageing. In addition, knowledge about the mixing state of generated particles was utilised to explore the detailed processes of particle formation for different printing scenarios, including warm-up, normal printing, and printing without toner. The results indicated that polymerisation may have occurred on the surface of the generated particles to produce thermoplastic polymers, which may account for the expandable characteristics of some particles. Furthermore, toner and other particle residues on the idling belt from previous print jobs were a very clear contributing factor in the formation of laser printer-emitted particles. In summary, this study not only improves scientific understanding of the nature of printer-generated particles, but also provides significant insight into the formation and ageing mechanisms of SOAs in the indoor environment. The outcomes will also be beneficial to governments, industry and individuals.

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ID Code: 47442
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Morawaska, Lidia, Ayoko, Godwin, He, Congrong, & Salthammer, Tunga
Keywords: printer emissions, laser printer, indoor air quality, secondary organic aerosol (SOA), particle formation mechanism, particle number concentration, volatile organic compound (VOC), ozone (O3), ozone-initiated reaction, particle size distribution, volatility, hygroscopicity, VH-TDMA, ultrafine particles, indoor particle source
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 02 Dec 2011 00:20
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2011 00:20

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