Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Measuring Particulates

Figure from experiment P5 from Earth Science with Vernier


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 particles to the air you breathe include coal and oil burning power plants, diesel fuel, 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 particulates 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 this experiment, you will measure the amount of light that passes through a test card that has been allowed to collect particulate matter in the air for a week. You will compare the transmittance of light through the test card to a control card.


In this experiment, you will

  • Collect particulate matter from the air.
  • Use a Light Sensor to determine the amount of light blocked by the particulate matter.
  • Calculate the percent light transmittance for various locations.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment 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 Earth Science with Vernier »

Experiment P5 from Earth Science with Vernier Lab Book

<em>Earth Science with Vernier</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.

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