04 Nov 2022
04 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Performance evaluation of portable dual-spot micro-aethalometers for source identification of Black Carbon aerosols: Application to wildfire smoke and traffic emissions in the Pacific Northwest 

Mrinmoy Chakraborty1, Amanda Giang1,2, and Naomi Zimmerman1 Mrinmoy Chakraborty et al.
  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z4
  • 2Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z4

Abstract. Black Carbon (BC) is a component of particulate matter, emitted from the incomplete combustion of carbonaceous fuels. The presence of BC in the atmosphere can disrupt the atmospheric radiation budget, and exposure to BC can adversely affect human health. Multi-wavelength light absorption-based dual-spot aethalometers can be used to quantify the source and characteristics of BC from traffic or biomass burning-based sources. However, aethalometer measurements are affected by artifacts such as aerosol loading and light scattering; hence, they often need correction to reduce measurement uncertainty. This work assesses the performance of the recently developed portable aethalometer (MA300, AethLabs). Due to their portability and ease of usage, MA300s can be suitable for mobile and personal exposure monitoring. Here, we evaluate BC concentration and source apportionment accuracy of three MA300 units relative to a widely used aethalometer, the AE33 (Magee Scientific). Synchronous field measurements were performed at a major traffic intersection during regular and wildfire smoke-affected days in Vancouver, Canada. We find that MA300 reported BC mass concentrations were strongly correlated (Slope range between 0.73 and 1.01, with R2 = 0.9) compared to the reference instrument, yet there is visible instrumental variability (15 %) across three units. The mean absolute error of MA300 reported BC concentrations ranged between 0.44–0.98 ug m-3 with the highest deviations observed in wildfire smoke-affected polluted days. From the aerosol light absorption measurement perspective, MA300s tend to underestimate the absorption coefficients (babs) across the five wavelengths. UV channel light absorption results were subjected to the highest amount of noise, leading to systematic bias in source apportionment analysis. We investigated the application of the latest non-linear aethalometer correction protocols in the MA300 and found that flow fluctuations enhanced noise across all channels, compared to onboard instrument correction. We also identify that the UV (λ = 370 nm) channel absorption measurements are most sensitive to instrumental artifacts during the wildfire smoke-affected period. Hence, as an alternative to traditional UV and IR (λ = 880 nm)-based BC source apportionment methods, in this work, we tested the Blue (λ = 470 nm) and IR wavelengths for BC source apportionment calculation. By adopting Blue-IR based source apportionment technique in MA300, the apportioned BC components improves on average in the order of 10 % when compared against the reference monitor's results.

Mrinmoy Chakraborty et al.

Status: open (until 09 Dec 2022)

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Mrinmoy Chakraborty et al.

Data sets

Performance evaluation data of portable dual-spot microaethalometers for source identification of black carbon aerosols: data sets Mrinmoy Chakraborty, Amanda Giang, Naomi Zimmerman

Mrinmoy Chakraborty et al.


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Short summary
Black carbon (BC) has important climate and human health impacts. Aethalometers are used to measure BC, but they are hard to deploy in many environments (remote, mobile). We evaluate how well a portable micro-aethalometer (MA300) performs compared to a reference aethalometer at a road-side site in Vancouver, BC, Canada, during regular and wildfire conditions. We find that the MA300 can reproduce overall patterns in concentrations and source characterization, but with some underestimation.