21 Mar 2022
21 Mar 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

The realization of autonomous, aircraft-based, real-time aerosol mass spectrometry in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere

Antonis Dragoneas1,2, Sergej Molleker1,2, Oliver Appel1,2, Andreas Hünig1,2, Thomas Böttger1, Markus Hermann3, Frank Drewnick1, Johannes Schneider1, Ralf Weigel2, and Stephan Borrmann1,2 Antonis Dragoneas et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Otto Hahn Institute), Particle Chemistry Department, Mainz, Germany
  • 2Institute for Physics of the Atmosphere, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany
  • 3Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany

Abstract. We report on the developments that enabled the field deployment of a fully-automated aerosol mass spectrometer, specially designed for high-altitude measurements on unpressurised aircraft. The merits of the two main categories of real-time aerosol mass spectrometry, i.e. (a) single particle laser desorption and ionization, and (b) continuous thermal desorption / electron impact ionization of aerosols, have been integrated into one compact apparatus with the aim to perform in-situ real-time analysis of aerosol chemical composition. The demonstrated instrument, named ERICA (European Research council Instrument for the Chemical composition of Aerosols), operated successfully aboard the high-altitude research aircraft M-55 Geophysica at altitudes up to 20 km, while being exposed to ambient conditions of very low atmospheric pressure and temperature. A primary goal of those field deployments was the in-situ study of the Asian Tropopause Aerosol Layer (ATAL). During 11 research flights, the instrument operated for more than 49 hours and collected chemical composition information of more than 150,000 single particles combined with quantitative chemical composition analysis of aerosol particle ensembles. This paper presents in detail the technical characteristics of the main constituent parts of the instrument, as well as the design considerations for its integration into the aircraft and its autonomous operation in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UT/LS). Additionally, system performance data from the first field deployments of the instrument are presented and discussed, together with exemplary mass spectrometry data collected during those flights.

Antonis Dragoneas et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-33', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Apr 2022 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-33', Anonymous Referee #2, 09 May 2022 reply

Antonis Dragoneas et al.

Antonis Dragoneas et al.


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Short summary
The ERICA is a specially designed aerosol particle mass spectrometer for in-situ, real-time chemical composition analysis of aerosols. It can operate completely autonomously, in the absence of an instrument operator. Its design has enabled its operation under harsh conditions, like those experienced in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, aboard unpressurized high-altitude research aircraft. The instrument has successfully participated in several aircraft operations around the world.