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SEM stub monitor for particulate matter

In field testing, these samplers have been demonstrated to vary (CV) only 11.6% from Federal Reference Methods, when measuring course particulates (PM10-2.5), making this the most precise published passive particle monitor design [7]. Public Lab is evaluating the deployment of this technology.

SEM Stub Monitor Documentation:


Developed originally for indoor dust monitoring at the University of North Carolina by Jeff Wagner and David Leith, this tiny monitor (in the middle of the housing, below) consists of a fine mesh cap over top of a Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) pin stub, a small aluminum object that looks like a pin. Thomas Peters and Darrin Ott at the University of Iowa added a wind-and-rain housing so the monitors can be used outside. They also added a glass microscope slide cover on top of the stub, allowing lower-cost analysis with a standard visible-light microscope.

Amber Wise removing a stub cover



Via [9]:



Early testing by Wagner, et al. demonstrated that there was a high correlation between results from the passive sampler and impactor sampling in indoor environments [2, 4]. The wind tunnel used is described in [4]. Windy environments would require wind speed measurements to correct against.

Enclosures for outdoor operation

Thomas Peters and his team were interested in using passive monitors for outdoor testing that would obviate the need for wind speed data. They developed a housing [6] and rigorously tested it in relation to optical and filter-based dichotomous samplers in wind tunnels and field tests [6, 7, 8]. The friction between the two plates slows air down and normalizes the deposition of particles.

Wagner adapted a version of this flat plate system [10]:



Title Author Updated Likes
What's the best material for observing dust (PM) accumulation? @stevie 22 days ago
What is the scenario under which you would use an optical vs. a passive monitor to measure dust? @kgradow1 9 months ago
Can a passive dust monitoring housing be made from a cheaper/easier material? @warren over 1 year ago
Question: Can the passive PM kit be used to sample microbes at altitude? @nshapiro about 2 years ago

Ask a question  or help answer future questions


  1. Wagner, Jeff. Passive Aerosol Sampling. PhD Thesis. UNC Chapel Hill (2000).

  2. Jeff Wagner and David Leith. Field tests of a passive aerosol sampler Aerosol Science 32 33-48 (2001)

  3. Jeff Wagner and David Leith. Passive Aerosol Sampler. Part I: Principle of Operation. Aerosol Science and Technology 34: 186– 192 (2001)

  4. Jeff Wagner and David Leith. Passive Aerosol Sampler. Part II: Wind Tunnel Experiments. Aerosol Science and Technology 34: 193– 201 (2001)

  5. Jeff Wagner and Janet M. Macher. Comparison of a Passive Aerosol Sampler to Size-Selective Pump Samplers in Indoor Environments. AIHA Journal 64 630–639 (2003)

  6. Darrin K. Ott & Thomas M. Peters. A Shelter to Protect a Passive Sampler for Coarse Particulate Matter, PM10 - 2.5. Aerosol Science and Technology 42:4, 299-309 (2008)

  7. Darrin K. Ott, William Cyrs, Thomas M. Peters. Passive measurement of coarse particulate matter, PM10-2.5. Aerosol Science 39 156 – 167 (2008)

  8. Darrin K. Ott, Naresh Kumar, Thomas M. Peters. Passive sampling to capture spatial variability in PM10–2.5. Atmospheric Environment 42 746–756 (2008)

  9. R Willis, G Norris, T Watkins, E Sawvel, D Boysen, N Kumar, T Peters, G Casuccio. Characterization of Coarse PM Using Passive Samplers. National Ambient Air Monitoring Conference (2009)

  10. Jeff Wagner, Kinnery Naik-Patel, Stephen Wall, Martha Harnly. Measurement of ambient particulate matter concentrations and particle types near agricultural burns using electron microscopy and passive samplers. Atmospheric Environment 54 260-271 (2012)

  11. Peters, Grassian et al. Single-Particle SEM-EDX Analysis of Iron-Containing Coarse Particulate Matter in an Urban Environment: Sources and Distribution of Iron within Cleveland, Ohio. Environmental Science and Technology 46 4331−4339 (2012)

  12. Maiko Arashiro and David Leith. Precision of PM measurements with the UNC passive aerosol sampler. Journal of Aerosol Science 57 181–184 (2013)

  13. Jeff Wagner and Gary Casuccio. Spectral imaging and passive sampling to investigate particle sources in urban desert regions. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts 16 1745 (2014)

particulate-sensing dust particulates particulate pm passive-pm sem-stub