Evaluation of assumptions made by Hygroscopic Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer inversion routines

Christopher R. Oxford, Rajan K. Chakrabarty, Brent J. Williams

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1 Scopus citations


The Hygroscopic Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer (H-TDMA) measures the hygroscopicity of atmospheric particles, and many atmospheric processes that change this hygroscopicity also change the atmospheric size distribution. Two assumptions made during H-TDMA inversion create spurious hygroscopic trends as a function of the changing inlet size distribution. These two assumptions—that the particles exiting the first Differential Mobility Analyzer (DMA1) are singly charged and that the inlet size distribution has a slope of zero (flat)— generate Multi-Charge Dispersion (MCD) bias and Slope bias, respectively. First, we use a model, named TAO, to show that the inlet size distribution could theoretically change the measured ammonium sulfate hygroscopicity by 10%–20% as a function of diameter or experimental time with no change in relative humidity. Secondly, we show experimentally that aerosol emitted from the flaming combustion of grass creates MCD bias. In this experiment, we measure the CPC response of the first three charges and invert these responses using a new routine named Junior. Junior's inversion of each charge shows that one growth factor distribution describes all measured diameters (no growth dependence on diameter). As in the modeling study above, previous publications of this aerosol system, using traditional inversion assumptions, report a decrease in hygroscopicity as DMA1 diameter increases. Unlike traditional inversions, Junior's inversion does not assume the particles are singly charged nor does it make the flat inlet size distribution assumption. Instead, both the inlet size distribution and each charge's CPC response are measured quantities. Thus, the discrepancy between our inversion results and previous publications is likely due to the traditional inversion routine assumptions. This underscores the importance for accounting for Slope and MCD bias during inversions. Experimental results should be carefully analyzed when reporting hygroscopic trends with respect to diameter or experimental time when using the traditional inversion assumptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105955
JournalJournal of Aerosol Science
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • HTDMA bias
  • Hygroscopic tandem differential mobility analyzer
  • Hygroscopicity
  • Inversion
  • Multicharging


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