Highly-controlled, reproducible measurements of aerosol emissions from combustion of a common African biofuel source

Sophie Haslett, J Chris Thomas, William Morgan, Rory Hadden, Dantong Liu, James Allan, Paul Williams, Sekou Keita, Cathy Liousse, Hugh Coe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Particulate emissions from biomass burning can both alter the atmosphere's radiative balance and cause significant harm to human health. However, due to the large effect on emissions caused by even small alterations to the way in which a fuel burns, it is difficult to study particulate production of biomass combustion mechanistically and in a repeatable manner. In order to address this gap, in this study, small wood samples sourced from Côte D'Ivoire in West Africa were burned in a highly controlled laboratory environment. The shape and mass of samples, available airflow and surrounding thermal environment were carefully regulated. Organic aerosol and refractory black carbon emissions were measured in real time using an Aerosol Mass Spectrometer and a Single Particle Soot Photometer, respectively. This methodology produced remarkably repeatable results, allowing aerosol emissions to be mapped directly onto different phases of combustion. Emissions from pyrolysis were visible as a distinct phase before flaming was established. After flaming combustion was initiated, a black-carbon-dominant flame was observed during which very little organic aerosol was produced, followed by a period that was dominated by organic-carbon-producing smouldering combustion, despite the presence of residual flaming. During pyrolysis and smouldering, the two phases producing organic aerosol, distinct mass spectral signatures that correspond to previously reported variations in biofuel emissions measured in the atmosphere are found. Organic aerosol emission factors averaged over an entire combustion event were found to be representative of the time spent in the pyrolysis and smouldering phases, rather than reflecting a coupling between emissions and the mass loss of the sample. Further exploration of aerosol yields from similarly carefully controlled fires and a careful comparison with data from macroscopic fires and real-world emissions will help to deliver greater constraints on the variability of particulate emissions in atmospheric systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)385-403
    Number of pages18
    JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
    Early online date12 Jan 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2018


    Dive into the research topics of 'Highly-controlled, reproducible measurements of aerosol emissions from combustion of a common African biofuel source'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this