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Multi-year ACSM measurements at the central European research station Melpitz (Germany) - Part 1 : Instrument robustness, quality assurance, and impact of upper size cutoff diameter

Abstract : The aerosol chemical speciation monitor (ACSM) is nowadays widely used to identify and quantify the main components of fine particles in ambient air. As such, its deployment at observatory platforms is fully incorporated within the European Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure (ACTRIS). Regular intercomparisons are organized at the Aerosol Chemical Monitoring Calibration Center (ACMCC; part of the European Center for Aerosol Calibration, Paris, France) to ensure the consistency of the dataset, as well as instrumental performance and variability. However, in situ quality assurance remains a fundamental aspect of the instrument's stability. Here, we present and discuss the main outputs of long-term quality assurance efforts achieved for ACSM measurements at the research station Melpitz (Germany) since 2012 onwards. In order to validate the ACSM measurements over the years and to characterize seasonal variations, nitrate, sulfate, ammonium, organic, and particle mass concentrations were systematically compared against the collocated measurements of daily offline high-volume PM1 and PM2.5 filter samples and particle number size distribution (PNSD) measurements. Mass closure analysis was made by comparing the total particle mass (PM) concentration obtained by adding the mass concentration of equivalent black carbon (eBC) from the multi-angle absorption photometer (MAAP) to the ACSM chemical composition, to that of PM1 and PM2.5 during filter weighing, as well as to the derived mass concentration of PNSD. A combination of PM1 and PM2.5 filter samples helped identifying the critical importance of the upper size cutoff of the ACSM during such exercises. The ACSM–MAAP-derived mass concentrations systematically deviated from the PM1 mass when the mass concentration of the latter represented less than 60 % of PM2.5, which was linked to the transmission efficiency of the aerodynamic lenses of the ACSM. The best correlations are obtained for sulfate (slope =0.96; R2=0.77) and total PM (slope =1.02; R2=0.90). Although, sulfate did not exhibit a seasonal dependency, total PM mass concentration revealed a small seasonal variability linked to the increase in non-water-soluble fractions. The nitrate suffers from a loss of ammonium nitrate during filter collection, and the contribution of organo-nitrate compounds to the ACSM nitrate signal make it difficult to directly compare the two methods. The contribution of m∕z 44 (f44) to the total organic mass concentration was used to convert the ACSM organic mass (OM) to organic carbon (OC) by using a similar approach as for the aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS). The resulting estimated OC ACSM was compared with the measured OC PM1 (slope =0.74; R2=0.77), indicating that the f44 signal was relatively free of interferences during this period. The PM2.5 filter samples use for the ACSM data quality might suffer from a systematic bias due to a size truncation effect as well as to the presence of chemical species that cannot be detected by the ACSM in coarse mode (e.g., sodium nitrate and sodium sulfate). This may lead to a systematic underestimation of the ACSM particle mass concentration and/or a positive artifact that artificially decreases the discrepancies between the two methods. Consequently, ACSM data validation using PM2.5 filters has to be interpreted with extreme care. The particle mass closure with the PNSD was satisfying (slope =0.77; R2=0.90 over the entire period), with a slight overestimation of the mobility particle size spectrometer (MPSS)-derived mass concentration in winter. This seasonal variability was related to a change on the PNSD and a larger contribution of the supermicrometer particles in winter. This long-term analysis between the ACSM and other collocated instruments confirms the robustness of the ACSM and its suitability for long-term measurements. Particle mass closure with the PNSD is strongly recommended to ensure the stability of the ACSM. A near-real-time mass closure procedure within the entire ACTRIS–ACSM network certainly represents an optimal quality control and assurance of both warranting the quality assurance of the ACSM measurements as well as identifying cross-instrumental biases.
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Laurent Poulain, Gerald Spindler, Achim Gruner, Thomas Tuch, Bastian Stieger, et al.. Multi-year ACSM measurements at the central European research station Melpitz (Germany) - Part 1 : Instrument robustness, quality assurance, and impact of upper size cutoff diameter. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, European Geosciences Union, 2020, 13, pp.4973-4994. ⟨10.5194/amt-13-4973-2020⟩. ⟨ineris-03318328⟩

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