National Research Council of Canada. Measurement Science and Standards
Laser-induced incandescence (LII) measurements were conducted to explore the ability of LII to detect small soot particles of less than 10 nm in two sooting flat premixed flames of n-butane: a so-called nucleation flame obtained at a threshold equivalence ratio Φ = 1.75, in which the incipient soot particles undergo only minor soot surface growth along the flame, and a more sooting flame at Φ = 1.95. Size measurements were obtained by modeling the time-resolved LII signals detected using 1064 nm laser excitation. Spectrally-resolved LII signals collected in the nucleation flame display a similar blackbody-like behavior as mature soot. Soot particle temperature was determined from spectrally-resolved detection. LII modeling was conducted using parameters either relevant to those of mature soot or derived from fitting the modeled results to the experimental LII data. Particle size measurements were also carried out using (1) ex situ analysis by helium-ion microscopy (HIM) of particles sampled thermophoretically and (2) online size distribution analysis of microprobe-sampled particles using a 1 nm-SMPS. The size distributions of the incipient soot particles, found in the nucleation flame and in the early soot region of the Φ = 1.95 flame, derived from time-resolved LII signals are in good agreement with HIM and 1 nm-SMPS measurements and are in the range of 2–4 nm. The thermal and optical properties of incipient soot were found to be not radically different from those of mature soot commonly used in LII modeling. This explains the ability of incipient soot particles to produce continuous thermal emissions in the visible spectrum. This study demonstrates that LII is a promising in situ optical particle sizing technique that is capable of detecting incipient soot as small as about 2.5 nm and potentially 2 nm and resolving small changes in soot sizes below 10 nm.