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Physical Investigations of Small Particles: (I) Aerosol Particle Charging and Flux Enhancement and (II) Whispering Gallery Mode Sensing


López-Yglesias, Xerxes F. (2013) Physical Investigations of Small Particles: (I) Aerosol Particle Charging and Flux Enhancement and (II) Whispering Gallery Mode Sensing. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/DP06-K961.


Part I

Particles are a key feature of planetary atmospheres. On Earth they represent the greatest source of uncertainty in the global energy budget. This uncertainty can be addressed by making more measurement, by improving the theoretical analysis of measurements, and by better modeling basic particle nucleation and initial particle growth within an atmosphere. This work will focus on the latter two methods of improvement.

Uncertainty in measurements is largely due to particle charging. Accurate descriptions of particle charging are challenging because one deals with particles in a gas as opposed to a vacuum, so different length scales come into play. Previous studies have considered the effects of transition between the continuum and kinetic regime and the effects of two and three body interactions within the kinetic regime. These studies, however, use questionable assumptions about the charging process which resulted in skewed observations, and bias in the proposed dynamics of aerosol particles. These assumptions affect both the ions and particles in the system. Ions are assumed to be point monopoles that have a single characteristic speed rather than follow a distribution. Particles are assumed to be perfect conductors that have up to five elementary charges on them. The effects of three body interaction, ion-molecule-particle, are also overestimated. By revising this theory so that the basic physical attributes of both ions and particles and their interactions are better represented, we are able to make more accurate predictions of particle charging in both the kinetic and continuum regimes.

The same revised theory that was used above to model ion charging can also be applied to the flux of neutral vapor phase molecules to a particle or initial cluster. Using these results we can model the vapor flux to a neutral or charged particle due to diffusion and electromagnetic interactions. In many classical theories currently applied to these models, the finite size of the molecule and the electromagnetic interaction between the molecule and particle, especially for the neutral particle case, are completely ignored, or, as is often the case for a permanent dipole vapor species, strongly underestimated. Comparing our model to these classical models we determine an “enhancement factor” to characterize how important the addition of these physical parameters and processes is to the understanding of particle nucleation and growth.

Part II

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) optical biosensors are capable of extraordinarily sensitive specific and non-specific detection of species suspended in a gas or fluid. Recent experimental results suggest that these devices may attain single-molecule sensitivity to protein solutions in the form of stepwise shifts in their resonance wavelength, \lambda_{R}, but present sensor models predict much smaller steps than were reported. This study examines the physical interaction between a WGM sensor and a molecule adsorbed to its surface, exploring assumptions made in previous efforts to model WGM sensor behavior, and describing computational schemes that model the experiments for which single protein sensitivity was reported. The resulting model is used to simulate sensor performance, within constraints imposed by the limited material property data. On this basis, we conclude that nonlinear optical effects would be needed to attain the reported sensitivity, and that, in the experiments for which extreme sensitivity was reported, a bound protein experiences optical energy fluxes too high for such effects to be ignored.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:aerosol, charging, whispering gallery mode, flux enhancement
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Flagan, Richard C.
Thesis Committee:
  • Flagan, Richard C. (chair)
  • Beauchamp, Jack L.
  • Porter, Frank C.
  • Seinfeld, John H.
Defense Date:14 June 2012
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Astrobiology Institute through NAI TitanUNSPECIFIED
Ayrshire FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05122013-183426374
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7699
Deposited By: Xerxes Lopez-Yglesias
Deposited On:15 May 2013 16:42
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:00

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