10 May 2023
 | 10 May 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

Portable, low-cost samplers for distributed sampling of atmospheric gases

James F. Hurley, Alejandra Caceres, Deborah F. McGlynn, Mary Tovillo, Suzanne Pinar, Roger Schürch, Ksenia Onufrieva, and Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz

Abstract. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contribute to air pollution both directly, as hazardous gases, and through their reactions with common atmospheric oxidants to produce ozone, particulate matter, and other hazardous air pollutants. There are enormous ranges of structures and reaction rates among VOCs, and consequently a need to accurately characterize the spatial and temporal distribution of individual identified compounds. Current VOC measurements are often made with complex, expensive instrumentation that provides high chemical detail, but is limited in its portability and requires high expense (e.g., mobile labs) for spatially resolved measurements. Alternatively, periodic collection of samples on cartridges is inexpensive but demands significant operator interaction that can limit possibilities for time-resolved measurements or distributed measurements across a spatial area. Thus, there is a need for simple, portable devices that can sample with limited operator presence to enable temporally and/or spatially resolved measurements. In this work, we describe new portable and programmable VOC samplers that enable simultaneous collection of samples across a spatially distributed network, validate their reproducibility, and demonstrate their utility. Validation experiments confirmed high precision between samplers as well as the ability of miniature ozone scrubbers to preserve reactive analytes collected on commercially available adsorbent gas sampling cartridges, supporting simultaneous field deployment across multiple locations. In indoor environments, 24-hour integrated samples demonstrate observable day-to-day variability, as well as variability across very short spatial scales (meters). The utility of the samplers was further demonstrated by locating outdoor point sources of analytes through the development of a new mapping approach that employs a group of the portable samplers and back projection techniques to assess a sampling area with higher resolution than stationary sampling. As with all gas sampling, the limits of detection depend on sampling times and the properties of sorbent and analyte. Limit of detection of the analytical system used in this work is on the order of nanograms, corresponding to mixing ratios of 1–10 pptv after one hour of sampling at the programmable flow rate of 50–250 sccm enabled by the developed system. The portable VOC samplers described and validated here provide a simple, low-cost sampling solution for spatially and/or temporally variable measurements of any organic gases that are collectable on currently available sampling media.

James F. Hurley et al.

Status: open (until 15 Jun 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-825', Anonymous Referee #1, 18 May 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-825', Anonymous Referee #2, 23 May 2023 reply

James F. Hurley et al.

James F. Hurley et al.


Total article views: 243 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
178 59 6 243 21 3 4
  • HTML: 178
  • PDF: 59
  • XML: 6
  • Total: 243
  • Supplement: 21
  • BibTeX: 3
  • EndNote: 4
Views and downloads (calculated since 10 May 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 10 May 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 253 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 253 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 04 Jun 2023
Short summary
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have a wide range of sources and impacts on environments and human health that make them spatially, temporally, and chemically varied. Current methods lack the ability to collect samples in ways that provide spatial and chemical resolution without complex, costly instrumentation. We describe and validate a low-cost, portable VOC sampler and demonstrate its utility collecting distributed coordinated samples.