Scientific reports

Measurement of Crystalline Silica Aerosol Using Quantum Cascade Laser-Based Infrared Spectroscopy.

PMID 29066770


Inhalation exposure to airborne respirable crystalline silica (RCS) poses major health risks in many industrial environments. There is a need for new sensitive instruments and methods for in-field or near real-time measurement of crystalline silica aerosol. The objective of this study was to develop an approach, using quantum cascade laser (QCL)-based infrared spectroscopy (IR), to quantify airborne concentrations of RCS. Three sampling methods were investigated for their potential for effective coupling with QCL-based transmittance measurements: (i) conventional aerosol filter collection, (ii) focused spot sample collection directly from the aerosol phase, and (iii) dried spot obtained from deposition of liquid suspensions. Spectral analysis methods were developed to obtain IR spectra from the collected particulate samples in the range 750-1030 cm-1. The new instrument was calibrated and the results were compared with standardized methods based on Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry. Results show that significantly lower detection limits for RCS (≈330 ng), compared to conventional infrared methods, could be achieved with effective microconcentration and careful coupling of the particulate sample with the QCL beam. These results offer promise for further development of sensitive filter-based laboratory methods and portable sensors for near real-time measurement of crystalline silica aerosol.