10 Sep 2021

10 Sep 2021

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

Simulation-aided characterization of a versatile water condensation particle counter for atmospheric airborne research

Fan Mei1, Steven Spielman2, Susanne Hering2, Jian Wang3, Mikhail Pekour1, Gregory Lewis2, Beat Schmid1, Jason Tomlinson1, and Maynard Havlicek4 Fan Mei et al.
  • 1Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, 99352, USA
  • 2Aerosol Dynamics Inc., Berkeley, CA, 94710, USA
  • 3Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, 63130, USA
  • 4TSI Incorporated, Shoreview, MN, 55126, USA

Abstract. Capturing the vertical profiles and horizontal variations of atmospheric aerosols often requires accurate airborne measurements. With the advantage of avoiding health and safety concerns related to the use of butanol or other chemicals, a water-based condensation particle counter (wCPC) has emerged to provide measurements under various environments. However, the airborne deployment of wCPC is relatively rare due to the lack of characterization of wCPC performance. This study investigates the performance of a commercial "versatile" water CPC (vWCPC Model 3789, TSI) under low-pressure conditions. The effect of conditioner temperature on wCPC performance at low pressure is examined through numerical simulation and laboratory experiments. We show that the default instrument temperature setting of 30 °C for the conditioner is not suitable for airborne measurement and that the optimal conditioner temperature for low-pressure operation is 27 °C. Additionally, we show that insufficient droplet growth becomes more significant under the low-pressure operation. The variation in the chemical composition can contribute up to 20 % uncertainty in the counting efficiency of the wCPC, but this variation is independent of pressure.

Fan Mei et al.

Status: open (until 20 Oct 2021)

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Fan Mei et al.


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Short summary
This study focuses on understanding a versatile water-based condensation particle counter (vWCPC) performance under low-pressure conditions (or high altitude). A vWCPC has the advantage of avoiding health and safety concerns. However, its performance characterization under a low-pressure is rare but crucial for ensuring successful airborne deployment. This paper provides advanced knowledge of operating a vWCPC to capture the spatial variations of atmospheric aerosols.