02 Mar 2021

02 Mar 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Sizing Response of the Ultra-High Sensitivity Aerosol Size Spectrometer (UHSAS) and Laser Aerosol Spectrometer (LAS) to Changes in Submicron Aerosol Composition and Refractive Index

Richard H. Moore1, Elizabeth B. Wiggins1,2, Adam T. Ahern3,4, Stephen Zimmerman1, Lauren Montgomery1, Pedro Campuzano Jost4,5, Claire E. Robinson1,6, Luke D. Ziemba1, Edward L. Winstead1,6, Bruce E. Anderson1, Charles A. Brock3, Matthew D. Brown1,6, Gao Chen1, Ewan C. Crosbie1,6, Hongyu Guo4,5, Jose L. Jimenez4,5, Carolyn E. Jordan1,7, Ming Lyu8, Benjamin A. Nault4,5,a, Nicholas E. Rothfuss9, Kevin J. Sanchez1,2, Melinda Schueneman4,5, Taylor J. Shingler1, Michael A. Shook1, Kenneth L. Thornhill1,6, Nicholas L. Wagner3,4, and Jian Wang9 Richard H. Moore et al.
  • 1NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, USA
  • 2NASA Postdoctoral Program, Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, MD, USA
  • 3NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 4Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, CO USA
  • 5Department of Chemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO USA
  • 6Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Hampton, VA, USA
  • 7National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, VA, USA
  • 8University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 9Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA
  • anow at: Center for Aerosol and Cloud Chemistry, Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, MA, USA

Abstract. We evaluate the sensitivity of the size calibrations of two commercially-available, high-resolution optical particle sizers to changes in aerosol composition and complex refractive index (RI). The Droplet Measurement Technologies Ultra-High Sensitivity Aerosol Size Spectrometer (UHSAS) and the TSI, Inc. Laser Aerosol Spectrometer (LAS) are two commonly used instruments for measuring the portion of the aerosol size distribution with diameters larger than nominally 60–90 nm. Both instruments illuminate particles with a laser and relate the single-particle light scattering intensity and count rate measured over a wide range of angles to the size-dependent particle concentration. While the optical block geometry and flow system are similar for each instrument, a significant difference between the two models is the laser wavelength (1054 nm for the UHSAS and 633 nm for the LAS) and intensity (about 100x higher for the UHSAS), which may affect the way each instrument sizes non-spherical or absorbing aerosols. Here, we challenge the UHSAS and LAS with laboratory-generated, mobility-size-classified aerosols of known chemical composition to quantify changes in the optical size response relative to that of ammonium sulphate (RI of 1.52 + 0i at 532 nm) and NIST-traceable polystyrene latex spheres (PSLs with RI of 1.59 + 0i at 589 nm). Aerosol inorganic salt species are chosen to cover the real refractive index range of 1.32 to 1.78, while chosen light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols include fullerene soot, nigrosine dye, humic acid, and fulvic acid standards. The instrument response is generally in good agreement with the electrical mobility diameter. However, large undersizing deviations are observed for the low-refractive-index fluoride salts and the strongly absorbing nigrosine dye and fullerene soot particles. Polydisperse size distributions for both fresh and aged wildfire smoke aerosols from the recent Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments Experiment – Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) and the Cloud, Aerosol, and Monsoon Processes Philippines Experiment (CAMP2EX) airborne campaigns show good agreement between both optical sizers and contemporaneous electrical mobility sizing and particle time-of-flight mass spectrometric measurements. We assess the instrument uncertainties by interpolating the laboratory response curves using previously-reported RIs and size distributions for multiple aerosol type classifications. These results suggest that, while the optical sizers may underperform for strongly absorbing laboratory compounds and fresh tailpipe emissions measurements, sampling aerosols within the atmospherically-relevant range of refractive indices are likely to be sized to better than ±10–20 % uncertainty over the submicron aerosol size range when using instruments calibrated with ammonium sulphate.

Richard H. Moore et al.

Status: open (until 27 Apr 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2021-21', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Mar 2021 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply to Comments By Anonymous Referee #1', Richard Moore, 22 Apr 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2021-21', Anonymous Referee #2, 31 Mar 2021 reply
    • AC2: 'Reply to Comments By Anonymous Referee #2', Richard Moore, 22 Apr 2021 reply

Richard H. Moore et al.

Data sets

Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) Data Set FIREX-AQ Science Team

Clouds, Aerosol, and Monsoon Processes-Phillipines Experiment (CAMP2EX) Data Set CAMP2EX Science Team

Richard H. Moore et al.


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Short summary
Atmospheric particles are everywhere and exist in a range of sizes from a few nanometers to hundreds of microns. Because particle size determines the behavior of chemical and physical processes, accurately measuring particle sizes is an important and integral part of atmospheric field measurements! Here, we discuss the performance of two, commonly-used particle sizers and how changes in particle composition and optical properties may result in sizing uncertainties, which we quantify.