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Real-Time Airborne Particle Analyzer

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Particle analysis is useful for determining chemical compositions in a wide range
of disciplines, from ascertaining the source of a petroleum sample to duplicating a
fragrance. The technique is appealing to a broad cross section of analytical sciences,
but its applications are limited because, for existing equipment, sample size is limited
and the testing is carried out under a high vacuum.


The real-time particle analyzer developed at ORNL overcomes these limitations and is
so sensitive that in addition to identifying the elemental composition of a compound,
it can determine the ratios of isotopes for each element within a sample. The system
features a scaled-up laser and containment system for processing larger particles.
It transports the atomized samples in a low-pressure stream of inert gas rather
than in a vacuum. The inert gas provides a medium in which the sample retains a
homogeneous mixture that is representative of the original particle’s composition. The
gas also supports multiple analyses, thus providing enough information to discriminate
between isotopes as well as elements.



The invention is designed to be self-contained and portable, so it can carry out
analyses in the field. Its unique features make it particularly useful wherever screening
is done for chemical and nuclear hazards, including environmental monitoring, first
response to emergencies, and homeland security.

  • Real-time method for measuring elemental composition
  • Precise isotope ratios of individual elements
  • On-site process; no need for a specialized laboratory

Applications and Industries
  • Process engineering for raw material quality
  • Geology, biology, and environmental science
  • Weapons inspection
More Information

Peter T. Reilly, Real-Time Airborne Particle Analyzer, U.S. Patent Application 12/418,891, filed April 6, 2009.

Peter T. Reilly
Chemical Sciences Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 8,288,716
Real-time airborne particle analyzer
An aerosol particle analyzer includes a laser ablation chamber, a gas-filled conduit, and a mass spectrometer. The laser ablation chamber can be operated at a low pressure, which can be from 0.1 mTorr to 30 mTorr. The ablated ions are transferred into a gas-filled conduit. The gas-filled conduit reduces the electrical charge and the speed of ablated ions as they collide and mix with buffer gases in the gas-filled conduit. Preferably, the gas filled-conduit includes an electromagnetic multipole structure that collimates the nascent ions into a beam, which is guided into the mass spectrometer. Because the gas-filled conduit allows storage of vast quantities of the ions from the ablated particles, the ions from a single ablated particle can be analyzed multiple times and by a variety of techniques to supply statistically meaningful analysis of composition and isotope ratios.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 10/16/2012
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated

Contact ORNL About This Technology

To: Eugene Cochran<>