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Recent research has indicated that insoluble ultrafine aerosols (i.e., particles whose physical diameters are less than 100 nm) may cause adverse health effects due to their small size, and that toxicological response may be more appropriately represented by particle number or particle surface area. Unfortunately, current exposure criteria and the associated air-sampling techniques are primarily mass-based. Welding processes are high-temperature operations that generate substantial number concentrations of ultrafine aerosols. Welding aerosols are formed primarily through the nucleation of metal vapors followed by competing growth mechanisms such as coagulation and condensation. Experimental results and mathematical tools are presented to illustrate how welding metallurgy influences the chemical aspects and dynamic processes that initiate and evolve the resultant aerosol. This research suggests that a fundamental understanding of metallurgy and aerosol physics can be exploited to suppress the formation of undesirable chemical species as well as the amount of aerosol generated during a welding process.
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