We report the design and operation of a prototype conditional-sampling spectrograph detection system that can record the fluorescence spectra of individual, micrometer-sized aerosols as they traverse an intense 488-nm intracavity laser beam. The instrument's image-intensified CCD detector is gated by elastic scattering or by undispersed fluorescence from particles that enter the spectrograph's field of view. It records spectra only from particles with preselected scattering–fluorescence levels (a fiber-optic–photomultiplier subsystem provides the gating signal). This conditional-sampling procedure reduces data-handling rates and increases the signal-to-noise ratio by restricting the system's exposures to brief periods when aerosols traverse the beam. We demonstrate these advantages by reliably capturing spectra from individual fluorescent microspheres dispersed in an airstream. The conditional-sampling procedure also permits some discrimination among different types of particles, so that spectra may be recorded from the few interesting particles present in a cloud of background aerosol. We demonstrate such discrimination by measuring spectra from selected fluorescent microspheres in a mixture of two types of microspheres, and from bacterial spores in a mixture of spores and nonfluorescent kaolin particles.
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