Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Research article
03 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 03 Feb 2015

Pressure-dependent calibration of the OH and HO2 channels of a FAGE HOx instrument using the Highly Instrumented Reactor for Atmospheric Chemistry (HIRAC)

F. A. F. Winiberg, S. C. Smith, I. Bejan, C. A. Brumby, T. Ingham, T. L. Malkin, S. C. Orr, D. E. Heard, and P. W. Seakins

Abstract. The calibration of field instruments used to measure concentrations of OH and HO2 worldwide has traditionally relied on a single method utilising the photolysis of water vapour in air in a flow tube at atmospheric pressure. Here the calibration of two FAGE (fluorescence assay by gaseous expansion) apparatuses designed for HOx (OH and HO2) measurements have been investigated as a function of external pressure using two different laser systems. The conventional method of generating known concentrations of HOx from H2O vapour photolysis in a turbulent flow tube impinging just outside the FAGE sample inlet has been used to study instrument sensitivity as a function of internal fluorescence cell pressure (1.8–3.8 mbar). An increase in the calibration constants CHO and CHO2 with pressure was observed, and an empirical linear regression of the data was used to describe the trends, with ΔCHO = (17 ± 11) % and ΔCHO2 = (31.6 ± 4.4)% increase per millibar air (uncertainties quoted to 2σ). Presented here are the first direct measurements of the FAGE calibration constants as a function of external pressure (440–1000 mbar) in a controlled environment using the University of Leeds HIRAC chamber (Highly Instrumented Reactor for Atmospheric Chemistry). Two methods were used: the temporal decay of hydrocarbons for calibration of OH, and the kinetics of the second-order recombination of HO2 for HO2 calibrations. Over comparable conditions for the FAGE cell, the two alternative methods are in good agreement with the conventional method, with the average ratio of calibration factors (conventional : alternative) across the entire pressure range, COH(conv)/COH(alt) = 1.19 ± 0.26 and CHO2(conv)/CHO2(alt) = 0.96 ± 0.18 (2σ). These alternative calibration methods currently have comparable systematic uncertainties to the conventional method: ~ 28% and ~ 41% for the alternative OH and HO2 calibration methods respectively compared to 35% for the H2O vapour photolysis method; ways in which these can be reduced in the future are discussed. The good agreement between the very different methods of calibration leads to increased confidence in HOx field measurements and particularly in aircraft-based HOx measurements, where there are substantial variations in external pressure, and assumptions are made regarding loss rates on inlets as a function of pressure.