Articles | Volume 6, issue 9
Research article
11 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 11 Sep 2013

Calibration of the passive cavity aerosol spectrometer probe for airborne determination of the size distribution

Y. Cai, J. R. Snider, and P. Wechsler

Abstract. This work describes calibration methods for the particle sizing and particle concentration systems of the passive cavity aerosol spectrometer probe (PCASP). Laboratory calibrations conducted over six years, in support of the deployment of a PCASP on a cloud physics research aircraft, are analyzed. Instead of using the many calibration sizes recommended by the PCASP manufacturer, a relationship between particle diameter and scattered light intensity is established using three sizes of mobility-selected polystyrene latex particles, one for each amplifier gain stage. In addition, studies of two factors influencing the PCASP's determination of the particle size distribution – amplifier baseline and particle shape – are conducted. It is shown that the PCASP-derived size distribution is sensitive to adjustments of the sizing system's baseline voltage, and that for aggregates of spheres, a PCASP-derived particle size and a sphere-equivalent particle size agree within uncertainty dictated by the PCASP's sizing resolution. Robust determinations of aerosol concentration, and size distribution, also require calibration of the PCASP's aerosol flowrate sensor. Sensor calibrations, calibration drift, and the sensor's non-linear response are documented.