AskDefine | Define particulate

Dictionary Definition

particulate adj : composed of distinct particles [ant: nonparticulate] n : a small discrete mass of solid or liquid matter that remains individually dispersed in gas or liquid emissions (usually considered to be an atmospheric pollutant) [syn: particulate matter]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any solid or liquid in a subdivided state, especially one that exhibits special characteristics which are negligible in the bulk material
    Particulates in engine oil can abrade moving parts.
  2. any solid or liquid suspended in air or free to suspend in air


  1. Comprised of particles; as, particulate matter.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM) or fine particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. In contrast, aerosol refers to particles and the gas together. Sources of particulate matter can be man made or natural. Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes also generate significant amounts of aerosols. Averaged over the globe, anthropogenic aerosols—those made by human activities—currently account for about 10 percent of the total amount of aerosols in our atmosphere. Increased levels of fine particles in the air are linked to health hazards such as heart disease, altered lung function and lung cancer.

Scale classification

Among the most common categorizations imposed on particulates are those with respect to size, referred to as fractions. As particles are often non-spherical (for example, Asbestos fibers), there are many definitions of particle size. The most widely used definition is the aerodynamic diameter. A particle with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 micrometers moves in a gas like a sphere of unit density (1 gram per cubic centimeter) with a diameter of 10 micrometers. PM diameters range from less than 10 nanometers to more than 100 micrometers. These dimensions represent the continuum from a few molecules up to the size where particles can no longer be carried by a gas.
The notation PM10 is used to describe particles of 10 micrometers or less and PM2.5 represents particles less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter. .
But because no sampler is perfect in the sense that no particle larger than its cutoff diameter passes the inlet, all reference methods allow a high margin of error. These are also sometimes referred to with other equivalent numeric values. Everything below 100 nm, down to the size of individual molecules is classified as ultrafine particles (UFP or UP).
Note that PM10-PM2.5 is the difference of PM10 and PM2.5, so that it only includes the coarse fraction of PM10.
These are the formal definitions. Depending on the context, alternative definitions may be applied. In some specialized settings, each fraction may exclude the fractions of lesser scale, so that PM10 excludes particles in a smaller size range, e.g. PM2.5, usually reported separately in the same work . Researchers suggest that even short-term exposure at elevated concentrations could significantly contribute to heart disease.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have conducted the largest nationwide study on the acute health effects of coarse particle pollution. Coarse particles are airborne pollutants that fall between 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter. The study, published in the May 14, 2008, edition of JAMA, found evidence of an association with hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases but no evidence of an association with the number of hospital admissions for respiratory diseases. After taking into account fine particle levels, the association with coarse particles remained but was no longer statistically significant.
The smallest particles, less than 100 nanometers (nanoparticles), may be even more damaging to the cardiovascular system. There is evidence that particles smaller than 100 nanometres can pass through cell membranes and migrate into other organs, including the brain. It has been suggested that particulate matter can cause similar brain damage as that found in Alzheimer patients. Particles emitted from modern diesel engines (commonly referred to as Diesel Particulate Matter, or DPM) are typically in the size range of 100 nanometres (0.1 micrometres). In addition, these soot particles also carry carcinogenic components like benzopyrenes adsorbed on their surface. It is becoming increasingly clear that the legislative limits for engines, which are in terms of emitted mass, are not a proper measure of the health hazard. One particle of 10 µm diameter has approximately the same mass as 1 million particles of 100 nm diameter, but it is clearly much less hazardous, as it probably never enters the human body - and if it does, it is quickly removed. Proposals for new regulations exist in some countries, with suggestions to limit the particle surface area or the particle number.
The large number of deaths and other health problems associated with particulate pollution was first demonstrated in the early 1970s and has been reproduced many times since. PM pollution is estimated to cause 22,000-52,000 deaths per year in the United States (from 2000) and 200,000 deaths per year in Europe.


Due to the health effects of particulate matter, maximum standards have been set by various governments. Many urban areas in the U.S. and Europe still frequently violate the particulate standards, though urban air on these continents has become cleaner, on average, with respect to particulates over the last quarter of the 20th century.

United States

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations in urban air. (See National Ambient Air Quality Standards.) EPA regulates primary particulate emissions and precursors to secondary emissions (NOx, sulfur, and ammonia).

EU legislation

In directives 1999/30/EC and 96/62/EC, the European Commission has set limits for PM10 in the air: ¹ indicative value.

Affected areas

The most concentrated particulate matter pollution tends to be in densely populated metropolitan areas in developing countries. The primary cause is the burning of fossil fuels by transportation and industrial sources.

Aerosol science

The field of aerosol science and technology has grown in response to the need to understand and control natural and manmade aerosols.


Further reading

particulate in German: Feinstaub
particulate in French: Particules en suspension
particulate in Korean: 미세먼지
particulate in Italian: Particolato
particulate in Dutch: Fijn stof
particulate in Japanese: 浮遊粒子状物質
particulate in Slovak: Pevné častice (emisie)
particulate in Finnish: Pienhiukkanen
particulate in Swedish: PM10
particulate in Chinese: 懸浮粒子
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1