Black carbon instrument responses to laboratory generated particles

Laura Salo, Karri Saarnio, Sanna Saarikoski, Kimmo Teinilä, Luis M.F. Barreira, Petteri Marjanen, Sampsa Martikainen, Helmi Keskinen, Katja Mustonen, Teemu Lepistö, Päivi Aakko-Saksa, Henri Hakkarainen, Tobias Pfeiffer, Pasi Jalava, Panu Karjalainen, Jorma Keskinen, Niina Kuittinen, Hilkka Timonen, Topi Rönkkö

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Accurate measurement of black carbon (BC) particles is vital for climate models as well as air quality assessments. While the need for BC particle measurement has been recognized, standardization of instruments and procedures for ambient measurement is still underway. In this study, we used laboratory generated soot particles to assess nine instruments targeting BC mass concentration measurement. The measurement matrix included different BC concentrations (ranging from atmospheric levels to combustion emission levels), different particle coatings, two particle sources (gas burner and spark generator) and two dilution methods. The nine instruments included six different models: aethalometers AE33 and MA200, thermo-optical OC-EC analysis, multi-angle absorption photometer MAAP 5012, photoacoustic instrument MSS, and soot particle aerosol mass spectrometer SP-AMS. The main discrepancy we observed was that the SP-AMS results were systematically lower, approximately only half of the BC measured by other instruments. A portion of this is explained by particle losses in the aerodynamic lens of the SP-AMS and the parameters used in the data analysis. Some smaller discrepancies were identified for the other instruments, but overall, the median values from were within 25 % of each other. Instruments’ operation principles and covered concentration ranges need to be carefully considered especially in emission measurements where the aerosols can have high temporal variation as well as high BC concentrations. In general, the results can decrease the uncertainties in climate and air quality studies by providing tools for more accurate and comparable BC measurements and when the existing BC data is interpreted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102088
JournalAtmospheric Pollution Research
Issue number5
Early online date17 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • AE33
  • MAAP
  • MSS
  • Soot
  • SP-AMS

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Atmospheric Science


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