According to new experiments done at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California, combining femtosecond X-ray pulses with mass spectrometry reveals the structural morphology and chemical composition of individual airborne particles. The study was recently published in the journal Nature. A better understanding of the structure and chemistry of atmospheric aerosol particles, such as soot emitted from vehicles or factories, will help unravel the roles they play in health, weather, and climate. The X-ray pulses have enough intensity to yield nanometre-resolution diffraction patterns before destroying the particles, and the ion fragments ejected by the X-ray beam can be funnelled into a mass spectrometer. An international research team led by SLACs Michael J. Bogan and Duane Loh studied standard soot particles generated by an electric field focused between two carbon rods and was able to map the density variation across individual particles. In addition, the researchers used mass spectrometry to identify [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Na(NaCl)]+ and [Na(NaCl)2]+ species in soot particles exposed to salt, similar to what might happen if engine exhaust encounters sea air. The researchers plan to use to the technique to study real-world aerosols and how they change in response to their environment.