Articles | Volume 7, issue 12
Research article
18 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 18 Dec 2014

Collection efficiency of the soot-particle aerosol mass spectrometer (SP-AMS) for internally mixed particulate black carbon

M. D. Willis, A. K. Y. Lee, T. B. Onasch, E. C. Fortner, L. R. Williams, A. T. Lambe, D. R. Worsnop, and J. P. D. Abbatt

Abstract. The soot-particle aerosol mass spectrometer (SP-AMS) uses an intra-cavity infrared laser to vaporize refractory black carbon (rBC) containing particles, making the particle beam–laser beam overlap critical in determining the collection efficiency (CE) for rBC and associated non-refractory particulate matter (NR-PM). This work evaluates the ability of the SP-AMS to quantify rBC and NR-PM mass in internally mixed particles with different thicknesses of organic coating. Using apparent relative ionization efficiencies for uncoated and thickly coated rBC particles, we report measurements of SP-AMS sensitivity to NR-PM and rBC, for Regal Black, the recommended particulate calibration material. Beam width probe (BWP) measurements are used to illustrate an increase in sensitivity for highly coated particles due to narrowing of the particle beam, which enhances the CE of the SP-AMS by increasing the laser beam–particle beam overlap. Assuming complete overlap for thick coatings, we estimate CE for bare Regal Black particles of 0.6 ± 0.1, which suggests that previously measured SP-AMS sensitivities to Regal Black were underestimated by up to a factor of 2. The efficacy of the BWP measurements is highlighted by studies at a busy road in downtown Toronto and at a non-roadside location, which show particle beam widths similar to, but greater than that of bare Regal Black and coated Regal Black, respectively. Further BWP measurements at field locations will help to constrain the range of CE for fresh and aged rBC-containing particles. The ability of the SP-AMS to quantitatively assess the composition of internally mixed particles is validated through measurements of laboratory-generated organic coated particles, which demonstrate that the SP-AMS can quantify rBC and NR-PM over a wide range of particle compositions and rBC core sizes.