Inter-comparison of low-cost sensors for measuring the mass concentration of occupational aerosols

Sinan Sousan, Kirsten Koehler, Geb Thomas, Jae Hong Park, Michael Hillman, Andrew Halterman, Thomas M. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low-cost sensors are effective for measuring the mass concentration of ambient aerosols and second-hand smoke in homes, but their use at concentrations relevant to occupational settings has not been demonstrated. We measured the concentrations of four aerosols (salt, Arizona road dust, welding fume, and diesel exhaust) with three types of low-cost sensors (a DC1700 from Dylos and two commodity sensors from Sharp), an aerosol photometer, and reference instruments at concentrations up to 6500 μg/m3. Raw output was used to assess sensor precision and develop equations to compute mass concentrations. EPA and NIOSH protocols were used to assess the mass concentrations estimated with low-cost sensors compared to reference instruments. The detection efficiency of the DC1700 ranged from 0.04% at 0.1 μm to 108% at 5 μm, as expected, although misclassification of fine and coarse particles was observed. The raw output of the DC1700 had higher precision (lower coefficient of variation, CV = 7.4%) than that of the two sharp devices (CV = 25% and 17%), a finding attributed to differences in manufacturer calibration. Aerosol type strongly influenced sensor response, indicating the need for on-site calibration to convert sensor output to mass concentration. Once calibrated, however, the mass concentration estimated with low-cost sensors was highly correlated with that of reference instruments (R2= 0.99). These results suggest that the DC1700 and Sharp sensors are useful in estimating aerosol mass concentration for aerosols at concentrations relevant to the workplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-473
Number of pages12
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 3 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Pollution

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