Detection of tar brown carbon with a single particle soot photometer (SP2)

Corbin, Joel C.; Gysel-Beer, Martin

We investigate the possibility that the refractory, infrared-light-absorbing carbon particulate material known as “tarballs” or tar brown carbon (tar brC) generates a unique signal in the scattering and incandescent detectors of a single particle soot photometer (SP2). As recent studies have defined tar brC in different ways, we begin by reviewing the literature and proposing a material-based definition of tar. We then show that tar brC results in unique SP2 signals due to a combination of complete or partial evaporation, with no or very little incandescence. Only a subset of tar brC particles exhibited detectable incandescence (70 % by number); for these particles the ratio of incandescence to light scattering was much lower than that of soot black carbon (BC). At the time of incandescence the ratio of light scattering to incandescence from these particles was up to 2-fold greater than from soot (BC). In our sample, where the mass of tar was 3-fold greater than the mass of soot, this led to a bias of <5 % in SP2-measured soot mass, which is negligible relative to calibration uncertainties. The enhanced light scattering of tar is interpreted as being caused by tar being more amorphous and less graphitic than soot BC. The fraction of the tar particle which does incandesce was likely formed by thermal annealing during laser heating.

These results indicate that laser-induced incandescence, as implemented in the SP2, is the only BC measurement technique which can quantify soot BC concentrations separately from tar while also potentially providing real-time evidence for the presence of tar. In contrast, BC measurement techniques based on thermal–optical (EC: elemental carbon) and absorption (eBC: equivalent BC) measurements cannot provide such distinctions. The optical properties of our tar particles indicate a material similarity to the tar particles previously reported in the literature. However, more- and less-graphitized tar samples have also been reported, which may show stronger and weaker SP2 responses, respectively.



Corbin, Joel C. / Gysel-Beer, Martin: Detection of tar brown carbon with a single particle soot photometer (SP2). 2019. Copernicus Publications.


Rechteinhaber: Joel C. Corbin

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