Articles | Volume 7, issue 9
Research article
05 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2014

The influence of temperature calibration on the OC–EC results from a dual-optics thermal carbon analyzer

J. Pavlovic, J. S. Kinsey, and M. D. Hays

Abstract. Thermal–optical analysis (TOA) is a widely used technique that fractionates carbonaceous aerosol particles into organic and elemental carbon (OC and EC), or carbonate. Thermal sub-fractions of evolved OC and EC are also used for source identification and apportionment; thus, oven temperature accuracy during TOA analysis is essential. Evidence now indicates that the "actual" sample (filter) temperature and the temperature measured by the built-in oven thermocouple (or set-point temperature) can differ by as much as 50 °C. This difference can affect the OC–EC split point selection and consequently the OC and EC fraction and sub-fraction concentrations being reported, depending on the sample composition and in-use TOA method and instrument. The present study systematically investigates the influence of an oven temperature calibration procedure for TOA. A dual-optical carbon analyzer that simultaneously measures transmission and reflectance (TOT and TOR) is used, functioning under the conditions of both the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Method 5040 (NIOSH) and Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environment (IMPROVE) protocols. The application of the oven calibration procedure to our dual-optics instrument significantly changed NIOSH 5040 carbon fractions (OC and EC) and the IMPROVE OC fraction. In addition, the well-known OC–EC split difference between NIOSH and IMPROVE methods is even further perturbed following the instrument calibration. Further study is needed to determine if the widespread application of this oven temperature calibration procedure will indeed improve accuracy and our ability to compare among carbonaceous aerosol studies that use TOA.