Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
Research article
11 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 11 Jan 2013

Correction for a measurement artifact of the Multi-Angle Absorption Photometer (MAAP) at high black carbon mass concentration levels

A.-P. Hyvärinen, V. Vakkari, L. Laakso, R. K. Hooda, V. P. Sharma, T. S. Panwar, J. P. Beukes, P. G. van Zyl, M. Josipovic, R. M. Garland, M. O. Andreae, U. Pöschl, and A. Petzold

Abstract. The Multi-Angle Absorption Photometer (MAAP) is a widely-used instrument for aerosol black carbon (BC) measurements. In this paper, we show correction methods for an artifact found to affect the instrument accuracy in environments characterized by high black carbon concentrations. The artifact occurs after a filter spot change – as BC mass is accumulated on a fresh filter spot, the attenuation of the light (raw signal) is weaker than anticipated. This causes a sudden decrease, followed by a gradual increase in measured BC concentration. The artifact is present in the data when the BC concentration exceeds ~3 μg m−3 at the typical MAAP flow rate of 16.7 L min−1 or 1 m3 h−1. The artifact is caused by erroneous dark counts in the photodetector measuring the transmitted light, in combination with an instrument internal averaging procedure of the photodetector raw signals. It was found that, in addition to the erroneous temporal response of the data, concentrations higher than 9 μg m−3 (at the flow rate of 16.7 L min−1) are underestimated by the MAAP. The underestimation increases with increasing BC accumulation rate. At a flow rate of 16.7 L min−1 and concentration of about 24 μg m−3 (BC accumulation rate ~0.4 μg min−1), the underestimation is about 30%. There are two ways of overcoming the MAAP artifact. One method is by logging the raw signal of the 165° photomultiplier measuring the reflected light from the filter spot. As this signal is not affected by the artifact, it can be converted to approximately correct absorption and BC values. However, as the typical print formats of the MAAP do not give the reflected signal as an output, a semi-empirical correction method was developed based on laboratory experiments to correct for the results in the post-processing phase. The correction function was applied to three MAAP datasets from Gual Pahari (India), Beijing (China), and Welgegund (South Africa). In Beijing, the results could also be compared against a photoacoustic spectrometer (PAS). The correction improved the quality of all three MAAP datasets substantially, even though the individual instruments operated at different flow rates and in different environments.