Fluorescence calibration method for single-particle aerosol fluorescence instruments
Abstract. Real-time, single-particle fluorescence instruments used to detect atmospheric bioaerosol particles are increasingly common, yet no standard fluorescence calibration method exists for this technique. This gap limits the utility of these instruments as quantitative tools and complicates comparisons between different measurement campaigns. To address this need, we have developed a method to produce size-selected particles with a known mass of fluorophore, which we use to calibrate the fluorescence detection of a Wideband Integrated Bioaerosol Sensor (WIBS-4A). We use mixed tryptophan–ammonium sulfate particles to calibrate one detector (FL1; excitation = 280 nm, emission = 310–400 nm) and pure quinine particles to calibrate the other (FL2; excitation = 280 nm, emission = 420–650 nm). The relationship between fluorescence and mass for the mixed tryptophan–ammonium sulfate particles is linear, while that for the pure quinine particles is nonlinear, likely indicating that not all of the quinine mass contributes to the observed fluorescence. Nonetheless, both materials produce a repeatable response between observed fluorescence and particle mass. This procedure allows users to set the detector gains to achieve a known absolute response, calculate the limits of detection for a given instrument, improve the repeatability of the instrumental setup, and facilitate intercomparisons between different instruments. We recommend calibration of single-particle fluorescence instruments using these methods.