17 Feb 2023
 | 17 Feb 2023

Field Evaluation of Low-cost Electrochemical Air Quality Gas Sensors at Extreme Temperature and Relative Humidity Conditions

Roubina Papaconstantinou, Marios Demosthenous, Spyros Bezantakos, Neoclis Hadjigeorgiou, Marinos Costi, Melina Stylianou, Elli Symeou, Chrysanthos Savvides, and George Biskos

Abstract. Modern electrochemical gas sensors hold great potential for improving practices in Air Quality (AQ) monitoring as their low cost, ease of operation and compact design can enable dense observational networks and mobile measurements. Despite that, however, numerous studies have shown that the performance of these sensors depends on a number of factors (e.g., environmental conditions, sensor quality, maintenance and calibration, etc.), thereby adding significant uncertainties in the reported measurements and large discrepancies from those recorded by reference-grade instruments. In this work we investigate the performance of electrochemical sensors, provided by two manufacturers (namely Alphasense and Winsen), for measuring the concentrations of CO, NO2, O3 and SO2. To achieve that we carried out collocated yearlong measurements with reference-grade instruments at a traffic AQ monitoring station in Nicosia, Cyprus, where temperatures range from almost 0 °C in the winter, to almost 45 °C in the summer. The CO sensors exhibit the best performance among all we tested, having minimal mean relative error (MRE) compared to reference instruments (ca. 5%), although a significant difference in their response was observed before and after the summer period. At the other end of the spectrum, the SO2 sensors reported concentration values that were at least one order of magnitude higher than the respective reference measurements (with MREs being more than 1000 % for Alphasense and almost 400 % for Winsen throughout the entire measuring period), which can be justified by the fact that the concentrations of SO2 at our measuring site were below their Limit of Detection. In general, variabilities in the environmental conditions (i.e., temperature and relative humidity) appear to affect significantly the performance of the sensors. When compared with reference instruments, the CO and NO2 electrochemical sensors provide measurements that exhibit increasing errors and decreasing correlations as temperature increases (from below 10 to above 30 °C) and RH decreases (from > 75 to below 30 %). Interestingly, the performance of the sensors was affected irreversibly during the hot summer period, exhibiting different response before and after that, and resulting to a signal deterioration that was more than twice as that reported by the manufacturers. With the exception of the Alphasense NO2 sensor, all LCSs exhibited measurement uncertainties that were much higher, even at the beginning of our measurements, compared to those required for qualifying the sensors for indicative air quality measurements according to standard protocols. Overall, our results show that the response of all LCSs is strongly affected by the environmental conditions, warranting further investigations on how they are manufactured, calibrated and employed in the field.

Roubina Papaconstantinou et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1474', Anonymous Referee #1, 09 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1474', Anonymous Referee #2, 13 Mar 2023

Roubina Papaconstantinou et al.

Roubina Papaconstantinou et al.


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Short summary
In this paper, we investigate the performance of low-cost electrochemical gas sensors. We carried out yearlong measurements at a traffic air quality monitoring station where the low-cost sensors were collocated with reference instruments, and exposed to highly variable environmental conditions with extremely high temperatures and low relative humidity conditions. Sensors provide measurements that exhibit increasing errors and decreasing correlations as temperature increases and RH decreases.