An Evaluation of Methods for the Determination of Organic and Elemental Carbon in Particulate Samples

  • S. H. Cadle
  • P. J. Groblicki


Methods for separating and measuring organic and elemental carbon in particulate samples collected on filters are evaluated. Included in this evaluation are solvent extraction, nitric acid digestion, optical absorption, and various thermal techniques. Emphasis is placed on the measurement of ambient samples, but samples from diesel- and gasoline-fueled vehicles, as well as wood burning particulate, are also analyzed. It was found that all of the methods have limitations and must be applied carefully. The optical absorption techniques rely on a poorly determined absorption coefficient and are subject to interference by other species. Thermal methods are plagued by carbonization of organic material resulting in overestimation of elemental carbon and underestimation of organic carbon. Despite these problems, an extensive comparison of ambient samples from Denver showed excellent correlation between the various methods. Recommendations are presented for analyzing various sample types.


Total Carbon Elemental Carbon Particulate Sample Thermal Method Steam Bath 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. H. Cadle
    • 1
  • P. J. Groblicki
    • 1
  1. 1.General Motors Research LaboratoriesWarrenUSA

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