Comparing the Use of High- to Low-Cost Black Carbon and Carbon Dioxide Sensors for Characterizing On-Road Diesel Truck Emissions
The exhaust plume capture method is a commonly used approach to measure pollutants emitted by in-use heavy-duty diesel trucks. Lower cost sensors, if used in place of traditional research-grade analyzers, could enable wider application of this method, including use as a monitoring tool to identify high-emitting trucks that may warrant inspection and maintenance. However, low-cost sensors have for the most part only been evaluated under ambient conditions as opposed to source-influenced environments with rapidly changing pollutant concentrations. This study compared black carbon (BC) emission factors determined using different BC and carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors that range in cost from $200 to $20,000. Controlled laboratory experiments show that traditional zero and span steady-state calibration checks are not robust indicators of sensor performance when sampling short duration concentration peaks. Fleet BC emission factor distributions measured at two locations at the Port of Oakland in California with 16 BC/CO2 sensor pairs were similar, but unique sensor pairs identified different high-emitting trucks. At one location, the low-cost PP Systems SBA-5 agreed on the classification of 90% of the high emitters identified by the LI-COR LI-7000 when both were paired with the Magee Scientific AE33. Conversely, lower cost BC sensors when paired with the LI-7000 misclassified more than 50% of high emitters when compared to the AE33/LI-7000. Confidence in emission factor quantification and high-emitter identification improves with larger integrated peak areas of CO2 and especially BC. This work highlights that sensor evaluation should be conducted under application-specific conditions, whether that be for ambient air monitoring or source characterization.