New method for measurements of black carbon

Black carbon (soot) is the most important airborne particulate pollutant affecting the climate and health. Black carbon is the result of incomplete combustion from both traffic and the burning of wood, and the emissions can travel thousands of kilometers in the atmosphere.

In collaboration with Dr. Hilkka Timonen's group of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, we are developing a new method for precise real-time monitoring of black carbon in the atmosphere. The work is supported by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.

Our  approach is based on photoacoustic detection of black carbon. Thanks to a cantivever-enhanced photoacoustic detection scheme, we have reached world-record sensitivity in our initial laboratory tests. The improved detection sensitivity opens possibilities for black-carbon measurements in clean environments, such as in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, where black carbon plays an important role with respect to climate change. Furhermore, the high sensitivity enables particle-size-resolved absorption measurements.

We continue to develop the new method towards a compact, affordable and precise sensor for comprehensive black-carbon monitoring in the atmosphere. This is made possible by 2-year research funding granted by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.