Physical and chemical properties of black carbon and organic matter from different combustion and photochemical sources using aerodynamic aerosol classification

Dawei Hu, M. R. Alfarra, Kate Szpek, Justin M. Langridge, Michael I. Cotterell, Claire Belcher, Ian Rule, Zixia Liu, Chenjie Yu, Yunqi Shao, Aristeidis Voliotis, Mao Du, Brett Smith, Greg J. Smallwood, Prem Lobo, Dantong Liu, Jim Haywood, Hugh Coe, James Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The physical and chemical properties of black carbon (BC) and organic aerosols are important for predicting their radiative forcing in the atmosphere. During the Soot Aerodynamic Size Selection for Optical properties (SASSO) project and a EUROCHAMP-2020 transnational access project, different types of light absorbing carbon were studied, including BC from catalytically stripped diesel exhaust, an inverted flame burner, a colloidal graphite standard (Aquadag), and from controlled flaming wood combustion. Brown carbon (BrC) was also investigated in the form of organic aerosol emissions from wood burning (pyrolysis and smouldering) and from the nitration of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) proxies produced in a photochemical reaction chamber. Here we present insights into the physical and chemical properties of the aerosols, with optical properties presented in subsequent publications. The dynamic shape factor (χ) of BC particles and material density (𝜌𝑚) of organic aerosols were investigated by coupling a charging-free Aerodynamic Aerosol Classifier (AAC) with a Centrifugal Particle Mass Analyzer (CPMA) and Scanning Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS). The morphology of BC particles was captured by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). For BC particles from the diesel engine and flame burner emissions, the primary spherule sizes were similar, around 20 nm. With increasing particle size, BC particles adopted more collapsed/compacted morphologies for the former source but tended to show more aggregated morphologies for the latter source. For particles emitted from the combustion of dry wood samples, the χ of BC particles and the 𝜌𝑚 of organic aerosols were observed in the ranges 1.8-2.17 and 1.22-1.32 g/cm3, respectively. Similarly, for wet wood samples, the Χ and ℘m ranges were 1.2-1.85 and 1.44-1.60 g/cm3, respectively. Aerosol mass spectrometry measurements show no clear difference in mass spectra of the organic aerosols in individual burn phases (pyrolysis or smouldering phase) with the moisture content of the wood samples. This suggests that the effect moisture has on the organicchemical profile of wood burning emissions is through changing the durations of the different phases of the burn cycle, not through the chemical modification of the individual phases. In this study, the incandescence signal of a Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) was calibrated with three different types of BC particles and compared with that from an Aquadag standard that is commonly used to calibrate SP2 incandescence to a BC mass. A correction factor is defined as the ratio of the incandescence signal from an alternative BC source to that from the Aquadag standard, and took values of 0.821 ± 0.002 (or 0.794 ± 0.005), 0.879 ± 0.003 and 0.843 ± 0.028 to 0.913 ± 0.009 for the BC particles emitted from the diesel engine running under hot (or cold idle) conditions, the flame burner and wood combustion, respectively. These correction factors account for differences in instrument response to BC from different sources compared to the standardised Aquadag calibration and are more appropriate than the common value of 0.75 recommended by Laborde et al. (2012b) when deriving the mass concentration of BC emitted from diesel engines. Quantifying the correction factor for many types of BC particles found commonly in the atmosphere may enable better constraints to be placed on this factor depending on the BC source being sampled, and thus improve the accuracy of future SP2 measurements of BC mass concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2021


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