Uncertainty associated with the gravimetric measurement of particulate matter concentration in ambient air
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This work applied a propagation of uncertainty method to typical total suspended particulate (TSP) sampling apparatus in order to estimate the overall measurement uncertainty. The objectives of this study were to estimate the uncertainty for three TSP samplers, develop an uncertainty budget, and determine the sensitivity of the total uncertainty to environmental parameters. The samplers evaluated were the TAMU High Volume TSP Sampler at a nominal volumetric flow rate of 1.42 m3 min–1 (50 CFM), the TAMU Low Volume TSP Sampler at a nominal volumetric flow rate of 17 L min–1 (0.6 CFM) and the EPA TSP Sampler at the nominal volumetric flow rates of 1.1 and 1.7 m3 min–1 (39 and 60 CFM). Under nominal operating conditions the overall measurement uncertainty was found to vary from 6.1 x 10–6 g m–3 to 18.0 x 10–6 g m–3, which represented an uncertainty of 1.7% to 5.2% of the measurement. Analysis of the uncertainty budget determined that three of the instrument parameters contributed significantly to the overall uncertainty: the uncertainty in the pressure drop measurement across the orifice meter during both calibration and testing and the uncertainty of the airflow standard used during calibration of the orifice meter. Five environmental parameters occurring during field measurements were considered for their effect on overall uncertainty: ambient TSP concentration, volumetric airflow rate, ambient temperature, ambient pressure, and ambient relative humidity. Of these, only ambient TSP concentration and volumetric airflow rate were found to have a strong effect on the overall uncertainty. The technique described in this paper can be applied to other measurement systems and is especially useful where there are no methods available to generate these values empirically.