Differentiating semi-volatile and solid particle events using low-cost lung-deposited surface area and black carbon sensors

Molly J. Haugen, Ajit Singh, Dimitrios Bousiotis, Francis D. Pope, Adam M. Boies

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Low-cost particle sensors have proven useful in applications such as source apportionment, health, and reactivity studies. The benefits of these instruments increase when used in parallel, as exemplified with a 3-month long deployment in an urban background site. Using two lung-deposited surface area (LDSA) instruments, a low-cost method was developed to assess the solid component of an aerosol by applying a catalytic stripper to the inlet stream of one LDSA instrument, resulting in only the solid fraction of the sample being measured (LDSAc). To determine the semi-volatile fraction of the sample, the LDSAC was compared to the LDSA without a catalytic stripper, thus measuring all particles (LDSAN). The ratio of LDSA (LDSAC/LDSAN) was used to assess the fraction of solid and semi-volatile particles within a sample. Here, a low ratio represents a high fraction of semi-volatile particles, with a high ratio indicating a high fraction of solid particles. During the 3-month urban background study in Birmingham, UK, it is shown that the LDSA ratios ranged from 0.2–0.95 indicating a wide variation in sources and subsequent semi-volatile fraction of particles. A black carbon (BC) instrument was used to provide a low-cost measure of LDSA to BC ratio. Comparatively, the LDSA to BC ratios obtained using low-cost sensors showed similar results to high-cost analyses for urban environments. During a high LDSAC/LDSAN ratio sampling period, representing high solid particle concentrations, an LDSA to BC probability distribution was shown to be multimodal, reflecting urban LDSA to BC ratio distributions measured with laboratory-grade instrumentation. Here, a low-cost approach for data analyses presents insight on particle characteristics and insight into PM composition and size, useful in source apportionment, health, and atmospheric studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number747
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2022


  • LDSA to BC Ratio
  • low-cost LDSA
  • low-cost sensing
  • semi-volatile particles


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