Methodology for high-quality mobile measurement with focus on black carbon and particle mass concentrations
Measurements of air pollutants such as black carbon (BC) and particle mass concentration in general, using mobile platforms equipped with high-time-resolution instruments, have gained popularity over the last decade due to their wide range of applicability. Assuring the quality of mobile measurement, data have become more essential, particularly when the personal exposure to pollutants is related to their spatial distribution. In the following, we suggest a methodology to achieve data from mobile measurements of equivalent black carbon (eBC) and PM2.5 mass concentrations with high data quality. Besides frequent routine quality assurance measures of the instruments, the methodology includes the following steps: (a) measures to ensure the quality of mobile instruments through repeated collocated measurements using identical instrumentation, (b) inclusion of a fixed station along the route containing quality-assured reference instruments, and (c) sufficiently long and frequent intercomparisons between the mobile and reference instruments to correct the particle number and mass size distributions obtained from mobile measurements. The application of the methodology can provide the following results. First, collocated mobile measurements with sets of identical instruments allow identification of undetected malfunctions of the instruments. Second, frequent intercomparisons against the reference instruments will ensure the quality of the mobile measurement data of the eBC mass concentration. Third, the intercomparison data between the mobile optical particle size spectrometer (OPSS) and a reference mobility particle size spectrometer (MPSS) allow for the adjustment of the OPSS particle number size distribution using physically meaningful corrections. Matching the OPSS and MPSS volume particle size distributions is crucial for the determination of PM2.5 mass concentration. Using size-resolved complex refractive indices and time-resolved fine-mode volume correction factors of the fine-particle range, the calculated PM2.5 from the OPSS was within 5 % of the reference instruments (MPSS+APSS). However, due to the nonsphericity and an unknown imaginary part of the complex refractive index of supermicrometer particles, a conversion to a volume equivalent diameter yields high uncertainties of the particle mass concentration greater than PM2.5. The proposed methodology addresses issues regarding the quality of mobile measurements, especially for health impact studies, validation of modeled spatial distribution, and development of air pollution mitigation strategies.