Effect of peak inert-mode temperature on elemental carbon measured using thermal-optical analysis

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Thermal-optical analysis is a conventional method for classifying carbonaceous aerosols as organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC). This article examines the effects of three different temperature protocols on the measured EC. For analyses of parallel punches from the same ambient sample, the protocol with the highest peak helium-mode temperature (870°C) gives the smallest amount of EC, while the protocol with the lowest peak helium-mode temperature (550°C) gives the largest amount of EC. These differences are observed when either sample transmission or reflectance is used to define the OC/EC split. An important issue is the effect of the peak helium-mode temperature on the relative rate at which different types of carbon with different optical properties evolve from the filter. Analyses of solvent-extracted samples are used to demonstrate that high temperatures (870°C) lead to premature EC evolution in the helium-mode. For samples collected in Pittsburgh, this causes the measured EC to be biased low because the attenuation coefficient of pyrolyzed carbon is consistently higher than that of EC. While this problem can be avoided by lowering the peak helium-mode temperature, analyses of wood smoke dominated ambient samples and levoglucosan-spiked filters indicate that too low helium-mode peak temperatures (550°C) allow non-light absorbing carbon to slip into the oxidizing mode of the analysis. If this carbon evolves after the OC/EC split, it biases the EC measurements high. Given the complexity of ambient aerosols, there is unlikely to be a single peak helium-mode temperature at which both of these biases can be avoided. Copyright © American Association for Aerosol Research.






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Subramanian, Ramachandran, Andrey Y Khlystov and Allen L Robinson (2006). Effect of peak inert-mode temperature on elemental carbon measured using thermal-optical analysis. Aerosol Science and Technology, 40(10). pp. 763–780. 10.1080/02786820600714403 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6553.

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