Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2024-1
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2024-1
27 Feb 2024
 | 27 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Quantifying the uncertainties in thermal-optical analysis of carbonaceous aircraft engine emissions: An interlaboratory study

Timothy Sipkens, Joel Corbin, Brett Smith, Stephanie Gagné, Prem Lobo, Benjamin Brem, Mark Johnson, and Gregory Smallwood

Abstract. Carbonaceous particles, such as soot, make up a notable fraction of atmospheric particulate matter and contribute substantially to anthropogenic climate forcing, air pollution, and human health. Thermal-optical analysis (TOA) is one of the most widespread methods used to speciate carbonaceous particles and divides total carbon (TC) into the operationally defined quantities of organic carbon (OC; carbon evolved during slow heating in an inert atmosphere) and elemental carbon (EC). While multiple studies have identified fundamental scientific reasons for uncertainty in distinguishing OC and EC, far fewer studies have reported on interlaboratory reproducibility. Moreover, existing reproducibility studies have focused on complex atmospheric samples. The real-time instruments used for regulatory measurements of aircraft engine non-volatile particulate matter (nvPM) mass emissions are required to be calibrated to the mass of EC determined by TOA of the filter-sampled emissions of a diffusion flame source. However, significant differences have been observed in the calibration factor for the same instrument based on EC content determined by different calibration laboratories. Here, we report on the reproducibility of TC, EC, and OC quantified using the same TOA protocol, instrument model (Sunset 5L), and software settings (auto split-point: Calc405) across five different laboratories and instrument operators. Six unique data sets were obtained, with one laboratory operating two instruments. Samples were collected downstream of an aircraft engine after treatment with a catalytic stripper to remove volatiles. We compared laboratory-reported uncertainties with actual variability in the data set, the difference of which (dark uncertainty) was substantial. Interlaboratory (dark) contributions increase uncertainties by a factor of 1.2 – 1.6 relative to the laboratory-reported uncertainties, even for these relatively simple samples (combustion particles downstream of a stripper), resulting in uncertainties of 26 % (k = 2) for EC. Uncertainties were a little larger for EC than for OC. These results indicate that current TOA uncertainties are underestimated and should be adjusted upwards to reflect these interlaboratory differences.

Timothy Sipkens, Joel Corbin, Brett Smith, Stephanie Gagné, Prem Lobo, Benjamin Brem, Mark Johnson, and Gregory Smallwood

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-2024-1', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 Mar 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2024-1', Anonymous Referee #1, 19 Mar 2024
Timothy Sipkens, Joel Corbin, Brett Smith, Stephanie Gagné, Prem Lobo, Benjamin Brem, Mark Johnson, and Gregory Smallwood
Timothy Sipkens, Joel Corbin, Brett Smith, Stephanie Gagné, Prem Lobo, Benjamin Brem, Mark Johnson, and Gregory Smallwood

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Short summary
Carbonaceous particles, such as soot, contribute to climate forcing, air pollution, and human health. Thermal-optical analysis is a calibration standard used to measure these particles, but significant differences have been observed in the measurements across identical instruments. We report on the reproducibility of these measurements for aircraft emissions, noting that interlaboratory differences increase uncertainties by a factor of 1.2 – 1.6 relative to the laboratory-reported uncertainties.