Investigation of the positive artifact formation during sampling semi-volatile aerosol using wet denuders

A. Khlystov, M. Lin, M. A. Bolch, Y. Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Wet denuders are used in several steam-based semi-continuous aerosol monitors to avoid gaseous absorption artifacts and pre-humidify the air stream, while simultaneously allowing measurements of water-soluble gaseous species. Unlike dry denuders, wet denuders saturate the sample air stream with water vapor, which can lead to re-partitioning of water-soluble volatile species to the aerosol phase, thereby causing a positive artifact in aerosol measurements. This paper investigates the magnitude of the positive artifact formation occurring in wet denuders using modeling techniques. Gaseous nitric acid was used as an example of volatile water-soluble gas in both flat and annular wet denuders. We have also verified the occurrence of the positive artifact in a flat wet denuder through a laboratory experiment. The model results indicate that the magnitude of the artifact is rather limited under typical conditions being less than 2.5% of ambient nitric acid concentration for the flat denuder and less than 0.6% for the annular denuder. The magnitude of the artifact increases with condensational sink of the aerosol (i.e. with the mean aerosol size and number concentration) and aerosol water solubility. While the artifact is relatively small in the absolute sense, it could be substantial for aerosol nitrate measurements, especially in ammonia limited conditions, when the concentration of the nitric acid is high and the concentration of nitrate is low. Therefore, we recommend that the artifact is assessed regularly by replacing the wet denuder with a dry denuder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-370
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jan 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

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