DUSTER (Dust from the Upper Stratosphere Tracking Experiment and Retrieval) is an instrument designed to collect nanometer to micrometer scale solid aerosol particles in the upper stratosphere on board balloons.With three DUSTER flights we have demonstrated that: (1) the instrument’s performance was within the design parameters of environmental specifications (−80 ◦C; 3–10 mbar); (2) inertial impact collection of aerosols ∼ 500 nm to 24 microns on holey-carbon thin films mounted on Transmission Electron Microscope mesh grids was achieved; (3) the design of an active collector exposed to the air flux and an identical collector “blank”, not exposed to the air flux, to monitor possible contamination permits unambiguous identification of collected particles; (4) save storage of collected samples and subsequent retrieval in the laboratory was achieved with no measurable contamination; (5) reduced sample manipulation allowed the chemical and structural characterization of collected dust particles by Field-emission scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-Ray analyses, and infrared and Raman micro-spectroscopy. The main and most ambitious goal is the collection and characterization of solid aerosol particles smaller than 3 microns of solar system debris that are currently not sampled on a routine basis by other instruments in the upper stratosphere. DUSTER will provide a record of the amount of solid aerosols, their size, shapes and chemical properties in the upper stratosphere, including particles less than 3 microns in size. The DUSTER program identified 25 particles as collected during the 2008 flight with sizes in the range of 0.4 to 24 microns.
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