The determination of low-Z elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in atmospheric aerosol particles is of interest in studying environmental pollution. Conventional electron probe microanalysis technique has a limitation for the determination of the low-Z elements, mainly because the Be window in an energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) detector hinders the detection of characteristic X-rays from light elements. The feasibility of low-Z element determination in individual particles using a windowless EDX detector is investigated. To develop a method capable of identifying chemical species of individual particles, both the matrix and the geometric effects of particles have to be evaluated. X-rays of low-Z elements generated by an electron beam are so soft that important matrix effects, mostly due to X-ray absorption, exist even within particles in the micrometer size range. Also, the observed radiation, especially that of light elements, experiences different extents of absorption, depending on the shape and size of the particles. Monte Carlo calculation is applied to explain the variation of observed X-ray intensities according to the geometric and chemical compositional variation of individual particles, at different primary electron beam energies. A comparison is carried out between simulated and experimental data, collected for standard individual particles with chemical compositions as generally observed in marine and continental aerosols. Despite the many fundamental problematic analytical factors involved in the observation of X-rays from low-Z elements, the Monte Carlo calculation proves to be quite reliable to evaluate those matrix and geometric effects. Practical aspects of the Monte Carlo calculation for the determination of light elements in individual particles are also considered.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry