Are there any government regulations concerning ultrafine particles?
No. All current regulations and guidelines specify airborne particulate levels in terms of mass (i.e. mg/M3). There are rarely enough ultrafine particles in the air to measure in terms of mass. That's why you need a particle counter like the P-Trak.
Are there other applications for the P-Trak besides solving IAQ problems?
Absolutely! For example, the P-Trak can leak test HEPA filters such as those used in biological safety cabinets, hospital isolation rooms and many other applications. Such leak testing is far more sensitive than you could do using a photometer because the P-Trak can "see" a single particle. Not only can you determine if the filter leaks, you can scan the filter surface with the P-Trak probe and determine exactly where the leak is!
Can I convert the particle count in particles/cm³ measured by the P-Trak into units of mass i.e. mg/m³?
Not easily or accurately. If you knew the number of particles per cm3 AND the particle size distribution, you could calculate mass concentration. Determining the particle size distribution of an ultrafine aerosol is a difficult measurement to make requiring sophisticated instrumentation and significant expertise.
Can I use a photometer like the TSI DustTrak™ Aerosol Monitor or MIE DataRam to detect ultrafine particles?
No. Photometers cannot "see" typical ultrafine particle concentrations because the mass concentration is too low to measure photometrically. Photometers often read zero when sampling an ultrafine particle concentration that registers very high on the P-Trak® Ultrafine Particle Counter.
Can I use rechargeable batteries with my P-Trak® particle counter?
Yes. The P-Trak® particle counter will operate on NiCd or NiMh rechargeable batteries. If you elect to use rechargeable batteries you will have to provide an external charger also. It is not possible to charge a battery while it is in the P-Trak® particle counter.
Can the P-Trak® particle counter be field-calibrated or checked to make sure it's working properly?
Field checking the P-Trak® particle counter is easily accomplished by performing the Daily Checks as outlined in the manual. The Daily Checks consist of a Particle Check which makes sure the instrument is counting particles successfully and a Zero Check using the supplied HEPA filter to make sure there are no leaks or false counts. There is no way to fully calibrate the P-Trak® particle counter in the field because this requires a great deal of sophisticated aerosol instrumentation and expertise.
Can the P-Trak® particle counter be used for PM1.0 or PM2.5 measurements?
No. The P-Trak® particle counter is designed for counting concentrations of ultrafine particles that are 0.1 microns or smaller. It can "see" particles as big as 1.0 micron but is not suited for EPA PMx.x measurements since all EPA PM specifications require a mass-based measurement rather than a count-based measurement.
Can the P-Trak® particle counter help me if a building has bioaerosol contamination?
Possibly. Bioaerosol particles are generally too large to be counted by the P-Trak® particle counter and the P-Trak® particle counter cannot differentiate between viable and non-viable particles. However, bioaerosol sources may produce ultrafine particles simultaneously. The P-Trak® particle counter can (and should) be used to locate these sources so they can be eliminated.
Can the P-Trak® particle counter help me if a building has VOC contamination?
Possibly. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) are not particles so the P-Trak® particle counter cannot measure them. However, VOC sources often emit ultrafine particles simultaneously or condense into an aerosol. The P-Trak® particle counter can (and should) be used to locate these sources so they can be eliminated.
Can the P-Trak® particle counter operate in any position?
The P-Trak® particle counter has been designed to operate best while being carried by the integrated handle or while lying horizontal (handle up) on a stationary surface. Measurements made while in other orientations will not damage the instrument, but may cause counting errors, and therefore should be avoided. An audible warning will sound if the P-Trak® particle counter is operated in a non-recommended position.
Does the low alcohol warning always mean the P-Trak® particle counter needs alcohol?
No. Moisture in the alcohol wick can fool the low alcohol sensor. If adding alcohol does not eliminate the Low Alcohol warning try changing the wick.
How do I know when the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter needs more alcohol?
The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter's Low Alcohol warning will be displayed. You may also notice that after about 6 hours, the particle count begins to drift continuously lower and eventually reads zero.
How do ultrafine particles affect the human body?
This is currently a hot topic in the research community. Apparently the mechanisms used by the human body to rid the lungs of contamination are very inefficient when the contamination is in the form of ultrafine particles. The subject is too complex to cover here. Please ask TSI for a copy of the article "Small particles - Big problem" written by Vicki Stone and Ken Donaldson of the Biological Sciences Department, Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland.
How does the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter count particles?
Please see P-Trak Ultrafine Particle Counter Theory of Operation (ITI-071) for an explanation.
How does TSI distribute software updates for TrakPro™ software?
Updates to TrakPro™ software are available for free downloading from TSI's website.
How fast does the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter consume isopropyl alcohol?
The nominal rate of alcohol consumption at room temperature is one cc per hour. Higher ambient temperatures will increase the rate somewhat.
How long can I data log before memory is filled up?
If you specify a 1-second logging interval you can collect data for about 15 hours. You can use a longer interval to log for longer periods, however the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter alcohol wick only holds 8 operating-hours worth of alcohol. You could data log longer than 8 hours by programming the P-Trak® particle counter to turn itself on and off automatically during extended periods.
How long can I data log before memory is filled up?
If you specify a 1-second logging interval you can collect data for about 15 hours. You can use a longer interval to log for longer periods, however the P-Trak alcohol wick only holds 8 operating-hours worth of alcohol. You could data log longer than 8 hours by programming the P-Trak® Ultrafine Particle Counter to turn itself on and off automatically during extended periods.
How long can the sample tube be?
TSI recommends that you do not extend the sample tube longer than the 4 feet provided between the sample probe and the P-Trak® unit. Using a longer tube can cause excessive aerosol losses because some particles always stick to the inside of the tube. Never use Teflon or silicone sample tubing because static charges cause very high particle losses. Tygon® (PVC) tubing is the best type of plastic tube for transporting aerosols. Metal tubing (grounded) is the very best for minimizing losses.
How long does it take the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter to count a particle after it enters the sample probe?
Particle transport time is under 4 seconds.
How long will the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter run on one charge of alcohol?
The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter holds 8 cc of alcohol when fully charged. This will typically last for about 8 hours of operation.
How often should the P-Trak be sent in for factory service?
TSI recommends that the P-Trak be factory serviced once per year.
If I need to change batteries will I lose data stored in P-Trak memory?
No, logged data is retained in static memory so it does not disappear when the batteries are removed.
If I use rechargeable batteries, can I recharge them inside the P-Trak using the optional AC Adapter?
No. The AC adapter available for the P-Trak is not a battery charger. It is not possible to charge a battery while it is in the P-Trak.
If I use the P-Trak to measure ultrafine particles, do I still need to make conventional IAQ measurements such as CO2, temperature and humidity?
Yes, probably. Eliminating ultrafine particle sources may not eliminate the IAQ complaints if the basic building ventilation is inadequate. Conventional IAQ measurements should be used to verify good ventilation.
Is the P-Trak CE approved?
Is the P-Trak intrinsically safe?
No. The P-Trak has no intrinsic safety rating.
Is TSI Incorporated ISO-9001 Certified?
Yes, TSI Incorporated is ISO-9001:2008 certified.
My current IAQ measurements include CO2, temperature, humidity and sometimes carbon monoxide (CO). What benefit is there in measuring ultrafine particles too?
Your current measurements are important because good IAQ requires good ventilation, however, good ventilation does not always eliminate the IAQ complaints. The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter is useful in locating indoor air pollution sources that often exist even though the building ventilation system is adequate. Conventional IAQ measurements often fail to isolate the cause of IAQ problems.
Once I find an ultrafine particle source, how do I know if that source is causing the IAQ complaints?
You often will not know. Eliminate the particle source and see if the IAQ complaints end or not. Eliminating one source is often necessary before you can expose other less active sources. Keep this process going until the particle concentration is reasonably close to the outdoor level or until the complaints end.
What are some typical sources of indoor air pollution in office environments?
Printers, copiers, heating equipment, and so forth.
What are typical ambient particle concentrations of ultrafine particles in office buildings?
Particle counts vary widely from location to location. Concentration ranges from 500 to 10,000 particle/cm3 are common.
What does TrakPro™ software do for me?
TrakPro™ software's primary functions are: Creating presentation quality graphs from logged data Downloading data from the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter and other TSI instruments Programming the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter for user-defined data logging sessions.
What grade of isopropyl alcohol is necessary for the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter and where can I get it?
The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter requires very clean isopropyl alcohol rated "reagent grade" or better. Reagent grade equates to 99.5% purity. The isopropyl alcohol that is typically available from retail outlets is not good enough. Purchase reagent grade alcohol from TSI or a local laboratory/chemical supplier.
What happens if memory is used up before the data logging is done?
Data logging will stop automatically.
What if I want to data log for a period of time that exceeds the battery life?
In this case you will need to use the optional AC Adapter that can power the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter for indefinite periods.
What is the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter's audio output jack for?
The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter has an audible "beeper" output that can be turned on or off by the user at any time. This allows the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter to operate something like a Geiger Counter whereby an increased beep rate indicates higher particle concentrations. If the beeping becomes annoying to nearby persons, the operator can plug a pair of (optional) headphones into the audio output jack and listen privately. Plugging the headphones into the jack automatically turns the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter's external speaker off.
What is the sampling rate used for data logging?
The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter is always sampling at an internal rate of one data point per second. The operator can program the data logging function to continuously store data points in memory at any interval between 1 and 60 seconds. The data stored when the interval is more than one second will be an average of all the 1-second readings taken during the interval. For example, if the interval is set at 10 seconds, each stored data point will be an average of ten 1-second readings.
What is the size range for ultrafine particles?
Ultrafine particles are defined by the scientific community as any particle 0.1 micrometers or smaller in diameter.
What level of ultrafine particles is harmful?
For many years, experts have known that very small particles called ultrafines (less than 0.1 micron in diameter) acted much like a gas dispersing evenly into a given volume. They also believed that these tiny particles were freely inhaled and exhaled offering little threat to human health. Recent research indicates that ultrafine particles (UFPs) are, in fact, retained in the alveolar regions of the lungs. Ultrafine particles are present in very large quantities in a given volume of air, 86% in terms of count while less than 1% of the mass of particulates. There is growing evidence that the shear numbers of UFPs being inhaled and retained overwhelms the natural mechanisms by which our bodies rid themselves of these tiny particles. Research focused on but not limited to clarifying characteristics, exposure effects and behavior of UFPs is being conducted by a number of regulatory organizations. This research suggests that there may be some adverse health effects associated with UFP exposure though there are no standards or regulations published yet. Researchers and industry experts suspect a link to health conditions and UFPs, perhaps some combination of the large number of particles, their total surface area, the chemical composition, physical properties, etc. We are closely monitoring their progress and findings. In the meantime, people are successfully using relative UFP measurements to identify contaminant sources and their related pathways to solve problems often associated with air quality complaints.
What type of batteries are used in the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter? How long will it run?
The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter is supplied with 6 size AA alkaline batteries which will run the instrument for about 6 hours. You may use rechargeable NiCd or NiMH batteries but you will have to supply your own external charger to recharge them. Battery life will be significantly shorter with rechargeable batteries.
What units of measure does the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter use to report particle concentration?
Particle concentration is displayed in particles per cm3. There is also an audible "beep" output that increases beep rate as particle concentration increases. The operator can enable or disable the audio output.
What's the difference between a photometer like the TSI DustTrak™ aerosol monitor and a particle counter like the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter?
Particle counters can "see" single particles and output data in units of particles/cm3. Photometers "see" the mass of many particles simultaneously occupying a volume of space and output data in units of mg/m3.
When does the n-butyl alcohol need to be refilled?
The reservoir bottle will continually supply butyl alcohol to the UCPC for several weeks.
When would I want to use the data logging features of the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter?
Many ultrafine particle sources are intermittent, or dependent on wind direction or other weather conditions. For example, your building may be downwind of a factory smokestack at times. Making a single measurement at one point in time may miss the event that is causing the IAQ complaints. You can use the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter's data logging feature to make unattended particle concentration measurements over long periods of time to catch particle generating events you would otherwise miss.
Why are ultrafine particles important with regard to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?
Recent case studies using an ultrafine particle counter like the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter show that the elimination of ultrafine particle sources in indoor environments causes IAQ complaints to cease.Aerosol research scientists and epidemiologists suspect a causal link exists between ultrafine particles and health effects. For example, research has shown that high concentrations of inert ultrafine particles can cause hemorrhagic bleeding in the lungs of rats. A copy of the article is available on the TSI website "Ultrafine Particles: A New IAQ Metric" written by Peter A. Nelson of TSI Incorporated and printed in the August 1999 issue of INvironment Professional.
Will the P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter provide information about the size of the sampled particles?
No. The P-Trak® ultrafine particle counter can only count particles, it cannot determine their size.