AIR particulate reference material for elemental quantification and CALibration procedures


Particulate matter (PM) is among the six primary environmental pollutants and is as such monitored by environmental agencies for ensuring compliance with the European Union’s Clean Air policies. PMs are usually collected onto filtering membranes (filters) and their mass amounts and composition determined for assessing the air quality and potential source apportionment, for monitoring the environment and/or workplace safety, and identifying stationary emission sources.

To determine the PM contents of elements of interests, such as human toxicants of class 1 (Pb, Hg, As, Cd), environmental scientists, environmental protection and regulation agencies, and environmental\/air monitoring analyses laboratories and consultants need reliable and accurate elemental analysis techniques, based on comparable calibration procedures employing fit-for-purpose reference materials (RM). Instead, different approaches are used as RM representative of PM filters are crucially lacking, with no adequate concentration ranges for the targeted applications. So far, only one certified RM (CRM) exists (NIST SRM 2783), which is a not appropriate for all types of PM.

Atomic Absorption (AAS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) Spectrometry are recognized as reference techniques for the elemental analysis of PM filters. Unfortunately, the related procedure is long, complex, and little sustainable, as it requires a full solubilisation of the sample making use of toxic reagents. X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and its variants as Total Reflection XRF (TXRF) present an interesting and more sustainable alternative to the above-mentioned techniques while achieving comparable results. However, comparing properly the different analytical methodologies via performance assessment, ensuring chemical and physical traceability during the measurement, and qualifying the methods are steps which are only possible if fit for purpose RMs are available.

Our innovation tackles the identified needs by developing and qualifying a collection of RM for PM filters, which will be fit for purpose for several techniques and for different PM sampling methods. No such RM are available in the market. These RM, together with their technique-dedicated set of instructions and operating procedures, will enable traceability and referenceability among the various elemental techniques, and will support the use of environmentally friendly sample preparation and handling methodologies based on Smart Store®, especially when coupled with XRF. The expected outcome of this CIG is to validate this innovative way to prepare RMs from the technological, normative, and business point of view. The later aspect will be based on customised technical requirements for the characterization of PMs, and on evaluation of the market current demand and future needs. These parameters will help defining the scope and strategy for a viable and sustainable business plan, allowing to prospect more efficiently for sources of funding and capitals within the European Union programmes.


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Name and email
Country of affiliation
Role in the CIG
Laura Borgese | laura.borgese@unibs.it
University of Brescia
CIG Chair
Jasna Jablan | jjablan@pharma.hr
University of Zagreb
CIG Vice-Chair
Diane Eichert | diane.eichert@elettra.eu
Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste
CIG Team Member
Eva Marguì | eva.margui@udg.edu
University of Girona
CIG Team Member
University of Warwick
United Kingdom
CIG Team Member
Giacomo Siviero | Giacomo.Siviero@gnr.it
G.N.R. srl Analytical Instruments Group
CIG Team Member
Armin Gross | armin.Gross@bruker.com
Bruker Nano GmbH
CIG Team Member
Christina Streli | streli@ati.ac.at
TU Wien, Atominstitut
CIG Team Member
Janos Osan | osan.janos@ek-cer.hu
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
CIG Team member