Researchers from myriad fields frequently seek to quantify and classify concentrations of carbonaceous aerosols as organic carbon (OC) or elemental carbon (EC). This is commonly accomplished using thermal-optical OC/EC analyzers (TOAs), which enable measurement via controlled thermal pyrolysis and oxidation under specific temperature protocols and within constrained atmospheres. Several commercial TOAs exist, including a semi-continuous instrument that enables on-line analyses in the field. This instrument employs an in-test calibration procedure that requires relatively frequent calibration. This article details a calibration protocol for this semi-continuous TOA and presents an open-source software tool for data analysis and rigorous Monte Carlo quantification of uncertainties. Notably, the software tool includes novel means to correct for instrument drift and identify and quantify the uncertainty in the OC/EC split point. This is a significant improvement on the uncertainty estimation in the manufacturer's software, which ignores split point uncertainty and otherwise uses fixed equations for relative and absolute errors (generally leading to under-estimated uncertainties and often yielding non-physical results as demonstrated in several example data sets). The demonstrated calibration protocol and new software tool enabling accurate quantification of combined uncertainties from calibration, repeatability, and OC/EC split point are shared with the intent of assisting other researchers in achieving better measurements of OC, EC, and total carbon mass in aerosol samples.
Journal of visualized experiments
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Conrad, B.M. (Bradley M.), & Johnson, M.R. (2019). Split Point Analysis and Uncertainty Quantification of Thermal-Optical Organic/Elemental Carbon Measurements. Journal of visualized experiments, (151). doi:10.3791/59742