Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
Research article
13 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 13 Jan 2012

Interferences of commercial NO2 instruments in the urban atmosphere and in a smog chamber

G. Villena, I. Bejan, R. Kurtenbach, P. Wiesen, and J. Kleffmann

Abstract. Reliable measurements of atmospheric trace gases are necessary for both, a better understanding of the chemical processes occurring in the atmosphere, and for the validation of model predictions. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a toxic gas and is thus a regulated air pollutant. Besides, it is of major importance for the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere and plays a pivotal role in the formation of ozone and acid precipitation. Detection of NO2 is a difficult task since many of the different commercial techniques used are affected by interferences. The chemiluminescence instruments that are used for indirect NO2 detection in monitoring networks and smog chambers use either molybdenum or photolytic converters and are affected by either positive (NOy) or negative interferences (radical formation in the photolytic converter). Erroneous conclusions on NO2 can be drawn if these interferences are not taken into consideration. In the present study, NO2 measurements in the urban atmosphere, in a road traffic tunnel and in a smog-chamber using different commercial techniques, i.e. chemiluminescence instruments with molybdenum or photolytic converters, a Luminol based instrument and a new NO2-LOPAP, were compared with spectroscopic techniques, i.e. DOAS and FTIR. Interferences of the different instruments observed during atmospheric measurements were partly characterised in more detail in the smog chamber experiments. Whereas all the commercial instruments showed strong interferences, excellent agreement was obtained between a new NO2-LOPAP instrument and the FTIR technique for the measurements performed in the smog chamber.