Verification of nitrous oxide primary standard gas mixtures by gas chromatography and cavity ring-down spectroscopy for ambient measurements in South Africa

  • Silindile Lushozi
  • James TshilongoEmail author
  • Luke Chimuka
General Paper


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and is the third-largest contributor to global warming with a global warming potential (GWP) higher than that of carbon dioxide. Ambient N2O is monitored globally and described at nanomole per mole (nmol mol−1) levels. Metrologically traceable and highly accurate N2O gas standards are required to understand the behaviour of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and GWP. A group of primary standard gas mixtures (PSGMs) in aluminium cylinder material has been prepared in synthetic air for the calibration of analytical instruments for measurement of N2O at an ambient level. An automatic weighing system with a mass comparator and a fully automated circular rotary plate, as well as a gas filling station, was used in the preparation of the gas mixtures. Analytical methods such as gas chromatography coupled with micro-electron capture detector and cavity ring-down spectroscopy were adopted in the verification process. Four PSGMs in the final preparation step were used to analyse unknown background and filtered air samples at the ambient level. An expanded uncertainty relative to the gravimetric amount fraction was found to be 0.02 %. Results show that the background air samples lie within the calibration range with 329 to 330 nmol mol−1 obtained and 135 nmol mol−1 obtained for filtered air sample.


Primary standard gas mixtures Gas chromatography coupled with a micro-electron detector Cavity ring-down spectroscopy Background Filtered air samples 



This work was supported by the National Metrology Institute of South Africa cross-cutting project: Environmental monitoring (Environmental and ambient air gases) under the green economy for measurement technology. The authors would like to thank the National Research Foundation (NRF) for their Grant provided during the Ph.D. studies and the gas analysis team for their contributions made. Many thanks go to the staff of SAWS-GAW station in Cape Point for providing background air samples.

Supplementary material

769_2019_1375_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1131 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA)Lynnwood RidgeSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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