3 TOFs Measuring Winter Pollution Aboard an NSF Aircraft

Through our partner Aerodyne Research, we frequently support the use of our technology on mobile research platforms, including automobiles, ships, airplanes, and blimps.

As part of the Wintertime INvestigation of Transport, Emissions, and Reactivity (WINTER 2015) Campaign, 3  Tofwerk TOFs are currently aboard the NSF/NCAR C-130 measuring the chemical transformations of air pollution in the winter time. Historically, most intensive measurement of atmospheric pollutants have focused on the chemistry that occurs in warmer weather, so there remains much uncertainty about the effects of pollution in the winter months, when temperatures are lower, sunshine is reduced, and shifts in human activity also shift the profile of emitted chemicals.


The payload of the NSF/NCAR C-130 for the WINTER campaign includes 2 Aerodyne chemical ionization mass spectrometers (ToF-CIMS) for the measurement of trace gases and an Aerodyne aerosol mass spectrometer (ToF-AMS), which can measure the size and chemistry or particles in the atmosphere.

These mass spectrometers are installed in special frames that can withstand turbulent conditions.  Inlets mounted through the wall of the aircraft sample air directly from the sky into the mass spectrometers.   By making measurements at high speeds (up to 10 measurements per second), the instruments are able to produce high-resolution maps of the chemistry observed over the aircraft’s flight trajectory.  These maps helps answer questions about what chemical compounds are emitted into the sky (gases and aerosols), where this pollution travels and how the chemical make-up of the “plume” evolves as it travels.