1Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA
2Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA
3USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Fire Laboratory, Riverside, CA, USA
4National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Spokane, WA, USA
5Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
Abstract. Particle size distribution from biomass combustion is an important parameter as it affects air quality, climate modelling and health effects. To date, particle size distributions reported from prior studies vary not only due to difference in fuels but also difference in experimental conditions. This study aims to report characteristics of particle size distributions in well controlled repeatable lab scale biomass fires for southwestern United States fuels with focus on chaparral. The combustion laboratory at the United States Department of Agriculture-Forest Service's Fire Science Laboratory (USDA-FSL), Missoula, MT provided a repeatable combustion and dilution environment ideal for measurements. For a variety of fuels tested the major mode of particle size distribution was in the range of 29 to 52 nm, which is attributable to dilution of the fresh smoke. Comparing mass size distribution from FMPS and APS measurement 51–68% of particle mass was attributable to the particles ranging from 0.5 to 10 μm for PM10. Geometric mean diameter rapidly increased during flaming and gradually decreased during mixed and smoldering phase combustion. Most fuels produced a unimodal distribution during flaming phase and strong biomodal distribution during smoldering phase. The mode of combustion (flaming, mixed and smoldering) could be better distinguished using the slopes in MCE (Modified Combustion Efficiency) vs. geometric mean diameter than only using MCE values.