Particle generation and resuspension in aircraft inlets when flying in clouds

Daniel M. Murphy, D. J. Cziczo, P. K. Hudson, D. S. Thomson, J. C. Wilson, T. Kojima, P R Buseck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using on-line analysis of single particles, we have observed both generation and resuspension of particles when ice crystals, cloud droplets, or dust impact an aircraft inlet. Large numbers of particles smaller than 1 μm with a composition suggesting stainless steel were measured when flying a stainless steel inlet through cirrus clouds. Smaller numbers of metal particles were also observed when flying through dust or water clouds. A different instrument, sampling through a different inlet, found zinc particles when sampling in cirrus clouds. Laboratory experiments have verified that high-speed ice crystals can abrade stainless steel. Collision of ice crystals with the inlet wall also resuspended previously deposited particles. A notable example came when a flight through the space shuttle exhaust plume deposited large numbers of unique particles in our inlet. Some of the same types of particles were observed when the aircraft flew into an ice cloud the following day. The generation of particles by impaction of ice crystals and dust in inlets may have affected some published results about ice nuclei and metal particles in the upper troposphere. The newly generated particles cannot be distinguished from atmospheric particles by size alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-408
Number of pages9
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Mechanical Engineering


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