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Field Evaluation of Low-Cost Particulate Matter Sensors for Measuring Wildfire Smoke

1
US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA
2
US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
3
US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Seattle, CA 98101, USA
4
US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sensors 2020, 20(17), 4796; https://doi.org/10.3390/s20174796
Received: 2 August 2020 / Revised: 19 August 2020 / Accepted: 21 August 2020 / Published: 25 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sensors for Environment Monitoring)
Until recently, air quality impacts from wildfires were predominantly determined based on data from permanent stationary regulatory air pollution monitors. However, low-cost particulate matter (PM) sensors are now widely used by the public as a source of air quality information during wildfires, although their performance during smoke impacted conditions has not been thoroughly evaluated. We collocated three types of low-cost fine PM (PM2.5) sensors with reference instruments near multiple fires in the western and eastern United States (maximum hourly PM2.5 = 295 µg/m3). Sensors were moderately to strongly correlated with reference instruments (hourly averaged r2 = 0.52–0.95), but overpredicted PM2.5 concentrations (normalized root mean square errors, NRMSE = 80–167%). We developed a correction equation for wildfire smoke that reduced the NRMSE to less than 27%. Correction equations were specific to each sensor package, demonstrating the impact of the physical configuration and the algorithm used to translate the size and count information into PM2.5 concentrations. These results suggest the low-cost sensors can fill in the large spatial gaps in monitoring networks near wildfires with mean absolute errors of less than 10 µg/m3 in the hourly PM2.5 concentrations when using a sensor-specific smoke correction equation. View Full-Text
Keywords: air quality; smoke; environmental monitoring air quality; smoke; environmental monitoring
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MDPI and ACS Style

Holder, A.L.; Mebust, A.K.; Maghran, L.A.; McGown, M.R.; Stewart, K.E.; Vallano, D.M.; Elleman, R.A.; Baker, K.R. Field Evaluation of Low-Cost Particulate Matter Sensors for Measuring Wildfire Smoke. Sensors 2020, 20, 4796. https://doi.org/10.3390/s20174796

AMA Style

Holder AL, Mebust AK, Maghran LA, McGown MR, Stewart KE, Vallano DM, Elleman RA, Baker KR. Field Evaluation of Low-Cost Particulate Matter Sensors for Measuring Wildfire Smoke. Sensors. 2020; 20(17):4796. https://doi.org/10.3390/s20174796

Chicago/Turabian Style

Holder, Amara L.; Mebust, Anna K.; Maghran, Lauren A.; McGown, Michael R.; Stewart, Kathleen E.; Vallano, Dena M.; Elleman, Robert A.; Baker, Kirk R. 2020. "Field Evaluation of Low-Cost Particulate Matter Sensors for Measuring Wildfire Smoke" Sensors 20, no. 17: 4796. https://doi.org/10.3390/s20174796

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