The mechanism of aerosol formation in coal mines during the operation of a longwall shearer was studied using a diffusion battery, optical counter, and by means of Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). The aerosol number concentration was measured to be (2–5) × 105 cm–3. The aerosol size spectrum contained three modes, at about 10, 100, and 1000 nm. The first mode relates to single (primary) particles formed by the homogeneous nucleation of supersaturated organic vapor. This vapor is formed by the evaporation of organic matter from coal due to the release of frictional heat at the interface between the cutting pick and coal. The second mode relates to the particles that are aggregates formed by coagulation of primary particles. The third mode relates to the particles formed by direct grinding of coal by the cutting picks.
The laboratory studies of organic aerosol formation in a flow coal grinding machine showed that the size spectrum and morphology of aerosol from the grinding machine were close to those in the coal mine. This fact confirms the thesis that the release of frictional heat is the driving force for the formation of organic aerosol. The analysis of gas-phase products in the outflow of the grinding machine showed that along with aerosol formation, gas products such as CO, CO2, CH4, C2H6, H2O are released from coal due to the frictional heat. Methane and ethane concentrations in the flow reached 10 and 5 vol. %, respectively.
To demonstrate the explosibility of organic aerosol, the combustion of organic aerosol in the air was studied. It was shown that the lower explosive limit for organic aerosol is less than 50 g m–3. A conclusion is made that the formation of organic aerosol is to be taken into account when estimating the safety limits in coal mines.