Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Measuring Particulates

Figure from experiment 32 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry


Air pollution affects everyone. It comes in various forms including emitted gases, ozone, and particulate matter. Short-term exposure to air pollution can result in throat and eye irritation as well as difficulty breathing. Prolonged exposure to particulate pollution can result in chronic health concerns, such as cancer and damage to the body’s immune, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Those most susceptible include the elderly, children, and people with asthma. There are guidelines in place to alert people to days during which the air pollution levels may be high.

Particulate matter consists of a mixture of particles ranging from large particles such as smoke, dust, and pollen to smaller ones from vehicle exhaust and coal-fired plants. The major contributors of particulates to the air you breathe include coal and oil burning power plants, diesel engines, and wood-burning fireplaces. Natural sources of particulate matter include volcanic ash, pollen, and dust. The amount of particulate matter in the air can be measured using various techniques. One technique uses a device that collects particles on a filter strip and periodically shines light through the strip to record the difference in light transmittance. This difference correlates to the particle mass collected over a period of time. You will use a similar technique.


In the Preliminary Activity, you will make a particulate test card and gain experience using a Light Sensor while determining light transmittance through the test card.

After completing the Preliminary Activity, you will first use reference sources to find out more about particulate air pollutants before you choose and investigate a researchable question.

Sensors and Equipment

This investigation features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry »

Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Seasons and Angle of Insolation
2A Local Weather Study
3Investigating Dissolved Oxygen
4Water Quality
5Long Term Water Monitoring
6Water Treatment
7Investigating Salinity
8Soil Temperature
9Soil Salinity
10Soil pH
11Soil Moisture
12Soil and Acid Rain
13Managing Garden Soil Moisture
14Cell Respiration (CO2)
15Biodiversity in Ecosystems
16Biochemical Oxygen Demand
17Water Cycle Column Investigations
18Decomposition Column Investigations
19Ecocolumn Investigations
20Global Warming
21UV Investigations
22Comparing Sunscreens
23Primary Productivity
24Modeling Population Growth
25Insulation Study
26Fossil Fuels
27Energy Conversion
28Wind Power
29Photovoltaic Cells
30Investigation of Passive Solar Heating
31The Effect of Acid Deposition on Aquatic Ecosystems
32Measuring Particulates
33Investigating Indoor Carbon Dioxide Concentrations
34A Pollution Study

Investigation 32 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry Lab Book

<em>Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

Buy the Book

Dev Reference: VST0139

Go to top