30 Mar 2022
30 Mar 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

In-situ measurements of NH3: instrument performance and applicability

Marsailidh M. Twigg1, Augustinus J. C. Berkhout2, Nicholas Cowan1, Sabine Crunaire3, Enrico Dammers4, Volker Ebert10, Vincent Gaudion3, Marty Haaima2, Christoph Häni6, Lewis John7, Matthew R. Jones1, Bjorn Kamps8, John Kentisbeer1, Thomas Kupper6, Sarah R. Leeson1, Daiana Leuenberger9, Nils O. B. Lüttschwager10, Ulla Makkonen11, Nicholas A. Martin12, David Missler13, Duncan Mounsor7, Albrecht Neftel14, Chad Nelson15, Eiko Nemitz1, Rutger Oudwater15, Celine Pascale9, Jean-Eudes Petit5,13, Andrea Pogany10, Nathalie Redon3, Jörg Sintermann16, Amy Stephens1, Mark A. Sutton1, Yuk S. Tang1, Rens Zijlmans8,, Christine F. Braban1, and Bernhard Niederhauser9 Marsailidh M. Twigg et al.
  • 1UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, EH26 0QB, UK
  • 2National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Antonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9, 3721 MA Bilthoven, the Netherlands
  • 3IMT Nord Europe, Univ. Lille, CERI EE, 59000 Lille, France
  • 4TNO, Department of Climate, Air and Sustainability, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 5Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA / Orme des Merisiers; 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 6Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Laenggasse 85, 3052 Zollikofen, Switzerland
  • 7Enviro Technology Services Ltd, UK
  • 8LSE monitors BV, the Netherlands
  • 9Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS), Lindenweg 50, 3003 Bern-Wabern, Switzerland
  • 10Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Bundesallee 100, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
  • 11Finnish Meteorological Institute, Erik Palmenin aukio 1, 00560 Helsinki, Finland
  • 12National Physical laboratory, Air Quality and Aerosol Metrology Group, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 0LW, UK
  • 13Atmo Grand-Est, 5 rue de Madrid, 67300 Schiltigheim, France
  • 14Neftel Research Expertise, Switzerland
  • 15Tiger Optics, USA
  • 16Office of Waste, Water, Energy and Air AWEL; Canton Zürich, Switzerland
  • deceased

Abstract. Ammonia (NH3) in the atmosphere affects both the environment and human health. It is therefore increasingly recognised by policy makers as an important air pollutant that needs to be mitigated. In order to understand the effectiveness of abatement strategies, routine NH3 monitoring is required. Current reference protocols, developed in the 1990s, use daily samplers with offline analysis but there have been a number of technologies developed since, which may be applicable for high time resolution routine monitoring of NH3 at ambient concentrations. The following study is a comprehensive field intercomparison held over an intensively managed grassland in South East Scotland using currently available methods that are reported to be suitable for routine monitoring of ambient NH3. In total 13 instruments took part in the field study. The instruments include: an online ion chromatography system (MARGA, Metrohm-Applikon,NL), two wet chemistry continuous flow analysis systems (AiRRmonia, Mechatronics, NL), a photoacoustic spectrometer (NH3 monitor, LSE, NL), two mini Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometers (miniDOAS; NTB Interstate University of Applied Sciences Buchs, now part of "Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences, CH and RIVM, NL), as well as seven spectrometers using cavity enhanced techniques: a Quantum Cascade Laser Absorption Spectrometer (QCLAS, Aerodyne, Inc. US), Picarro G2103 Analyzer (Picarro US), Economical NH3 Analyser (Los Gatos Research, US), Tiger-i 2000 (Tiger Optics, US) and LaserCEM® gas analyser (AP2E, FR).

Assessments of the instruments’ precision at low concentrations (< 10 ppb) and at elevated concentrations (maximum reported concentration of 282 ppb) were undertaken. At elevated concentrations all instruments performed well on precision (r2 > 0.75). At concentrations below 10 ppb however, instruments fell into two distinct groups and the duplicate instruments, miniDOAS, AiRRmonia, LGR and Picarro were split across the two groups. It was found that identical instruments performed differently at low concentrations, highlighting the impact of the setup, inlet design and operation of the instrument used.

Accuracy in determining absolute concentrations in the field was assessed using a calibration-free CRDS Optical Gas Standard (OGS, PTB, DE), serving as an instrumental reference standard. Accuracy was also assessed using well established metrological standards for calibration gases, i) a permeation system (ReGaS1, METAS, CH) and ii) Primary Standard gas Mixtures (PSMs) prepared by gravimetry (NPL, UK). This study showed that though the OGS good performance with respect to sensitivity and linearity with reference gas standards, this in itself is not enough for the OGS to be a field reference standard because a closed path spectrometer has limitations due to losses to surfaces in sampling NH3, which need to be taken into account. Overall, the instruments studied performed well against the standard gases but we note that not every instrument could be calibrated using gas standards due to incompatible inlet designs and limitations in the gas flow rates of the standards. This work provides evidence that though NH3 instrumentation have greatly progressed in measurement precision, there is still further work required to quantify the accuracy of these systems under field conditions. It is the recommendation of this study that the use of instruments for routine monitoring of NH3 needs to be set out in standard operating protocols for inlet set-up, calibration and routine maintenance, in order for datasets to be comparable.

Marsailidh M. Twigg et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2022-107', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Apr 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2022-107', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 May 2022

Marsailidh M. Twigg et al.

Marsailidh M. Twigg et al.


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Short summary
Ammonia (NH3) gas in the atmosphere impacts the environment, human health and indirectly climate. Historic NH3 monitoring was labour intensive and instruments complicated. Over the last decade, there has been a rapid technology development, including “plug and play” instruments. This study is an extensive field comparison of the current available technologies and provides recommendations on how to achieve high quality future routine monitoring of NH3.