Xinyue Li, Siyu Xu, Maosheng Yao This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China

These authors contributed equally to this work.

Received: December 22, 2020
Revised: February 15, 2021
Accepted: March 14, 2021

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Cite this article:

Li, X., Xu, S., Yao, M. (2021). Fine Sieving of Atmospheric Particles in a Collected Air Sample Using Oil Electrophoresis. Aerosol Air Qual. Res.


  • An iSCAPE system was developed to sieve atmospheric particles in a mixture.
  • The system separates particles of varying electrical mobilities via electrophoresis.
  • Bacteria with different electrical mobilities can be also separated using the system.


It is rather challenging to separate atmospheric particles from nano- to micro-meter in diameter from a mixed sample already collected. Here, a system named iSCAPE (Fine Sieving of Collected Atmospheric Particles using Oil Electrophoresis) was invented to efficiently sieve atmospheric particles out from a mixture by employing an electrostatic field in a non-conductive mineral oil. Tests with atmospheric particles collected from different cities as well as soil and road dust samples demonstrated that the “iSCAPEd” particles under different operating conditions moved rapidly with different velocities and two opposite directions. Particles of different sources such as ambient air, soil or road were shown to have different polarity-charged particle fractions, and exhibited clearly different particle electrical mobility graphs after the “iSCAPE” sieving from seconds to minutes. Data also revealed that after the sieving some particles were enriched at specific mobility ranges. Bacterial ATP measurements implied that the iSCAPE can be also used to efficiently separate bacteria of different sizes and charge polarity. Experimental data here suggest that the iSCAPE sieving strongly relies on the electrostatic field strength, mineral oil viscosity and the run time. In theory, the iSCAPE system can be used to extract any desired targets from a complex sample, thus opening up many outstanding opportunities for environmental, biomedical and life science fields.

Keywords: Atmospheric particles, Sieving, Electrical mobility, iSCAPE, Size distribution

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