The Detection Efficiency of the Single Particle Soot Photometer

Schwarz, J., R. Spackman, R. Gao, A. Perring, E. Cross, T. B. Onasch, A. Ahern, W. Wrobel, P. Davidovits, J. Olfert, M. K. Dubey, C. Mazzoleni, and D. Fahey (2010), The Detection Efficiency of the Single Particle Soot Photometer, Aerosol Sci. Tech., 44, 612-628, doi:10.1080/02786826.2010.481298.

A single particle soot photometer (SP2) uses an intense laser to heat individual aerosol particles of refractory black carbon (rBC) to vaporization, causing them to emit detectable amounts of thermal radiation that are used to quantify rBC mass. This approach is well suited for the detection of the majority of rBC mass loading in the ambient atmosphere, which occurs primarily in the accumulation mode (∼1–300 fg-rBC/particle). In addition to operator choices about instrument parameters, SP2 detection of rBC number and/or mass can be limited by the physical process inherent in the SP2 detection technique — namely at small rBC mass or low laser intensities, particles fail to heat to vaporization, a requirement for proper detection. In this study, the SP2’s ability to correctly detect and count individual flame-generated soot particles was measured at different laser intensities for different rBC particle masses. The flame-generated soot aerosol used for testing was optionally prepared with coatings of organic and non-organic material and/or thermally denuded. These data are used to identify a minimum laser intensity for accurate detection at sea level of total rBC mass in the accumulation mode (300 nW/(220-nm PSL)), a minimum rBC mass (∼0.7-fg rBC-mass corresponding to 90 nm volume-equivalent diameter) for near-unity number detection efficiency with a typical operating laser intensity (450 nW/(220-nm PSL)), and a methodology using observedcolor temperature to recognize laser intensity insufficient for accurate rBC mass detection. Additionally, methods for measurement of laser intensity using either laboratory or ambient aerosol are presented.

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Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Upper Atmosphere Research Program (UARP)