The Portable AERosol Observing System (PAEROS) is a development project for a miniaturized instrument package that, when deployed, is expected to provide worldwide observations of aerosols and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Small autonomous networks are the future of in-situ atmospheric observations and will dramatically increase spatial coverage, reliability and cost efficiency. The development of PAEROS utilizes techniques developed by the PI to miniaturize and automate payloads for unmanned aerial systems (funded by NSF and NOAA). The compact instrument package (suit-case size and less than 20 kg -an order of magnitude smaller and lighter than current systems) will be designed to operate unattended for up to two months at a time for deployment on research vessels managed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) as they traverse the world's oceans. Once built, PAEROS is expected to be used at selected observatories, such as Observatoires de Recherche en Environnment (ORE) and Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) sites. Long-term data sets of CCN are virtually non-existent because of the past need for frequent user intervention and high overhead costs associated with the large infrastructure to house the instrumentation. The science benefits of autonomous miniature systems will be potentially numerous as the applications can be extended to remote-ground observations, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles, interchangeable wing pods, oceanographic vessels and buoys - ultimately improving our science. It is the PIs' goal that this new system serves as a reliable and observationally-based characterization of aerosols that will be used for climate studies and as model input for Global Climate Model simulations of climate change. The fundamental objectives of this research are to: - develop miniature autonomous aerosol packages for continuous measurements of CCN (0.1 to 2% supersaturation; miniature CCN instruments under development by PI at SIO), aerosol number (condensation particle counter) and size distribution (10 to 1000 nm; scanning mobility particle sizer and optical particle counter), absorbing aerosols (single particle soot photometer), temperature, relative humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction. The goal is to achieve a weatherproof observing system the size of a small suitcase (ca. 60 × 40 × 30 cm) which weighs less than 20 kg. - extend the operation of the CCN instrument to measure continuous supersaturation spectra with a single column. - couple the electrostatic classifier with CCN and absorbing carbon (AC) measurements for CCN and AC size distributions (as well as traditional number size distributions) to extract chemical information of the aerosols as a function of supersaturation and size. - operate PAEROS on the Scripps Pier and R/V Horizon (Scripps) during local experiments to verify instrument performance and prepare package for continuous observations.

Intellectual Merit: Robust instrumentation and long-term observations of aerosols (especially cloud condensation nuclei) are essential to unraveling aerosol-cloud interactions and their effect on the earth's radiative budget. SIO research vessels provide critical access to the world's oceans for studying natural and anthropogenic sources of aerosols and their effect on clouds.

Broader Impact: The development of PAEROS addresses all five components of Broader Impacts as defined by the National Science Board. PAEROS will dramatically expand the capability of the atmospheric research community to measure aerosols and CCN, transcending the limitations of current technology. Through direct involvement of students and interns in the research, and PI involvement in a workforce initiative, this project promotes teaching, training and learning with special attention to broadening the participation of groups underrepresented in science and engineering. The PIs' work will enhance the infrastructure for research through development and broad dissemination of next-generation technology and instrumentation. Used by experimentalists and modelers alike, the data collected will lead to increasingly robust global climate models, enhance understanding of natural and anthropogenic climate change, and ultimately inform critical environmental decision-making.

Project Report

The Portable AERosol Observing System (PAEROS) is a stand-alone miniaturized instrument package for observations of aerosols, solar fluxes and meteorological parameters. PAEROS is about the size of a large suitcase and weighs less than 35 kg; this instrument suite is more than an order of magnitude smaller and lighter than current observing systems of similar capabilities. PAEROS was designed to operate in a multitude of environments, including airborne platforms, ships, or at remote ground-based sites. One of the main advantages of PAEROS is that it can be installed in remote locations where access and infrastructure are lacking. With the capability to deploy in remote locations, PAEROS has the ability to substantially increase the global observations of aerosol and cloud-condensation nuclei, which is an important part of reducing the uncertainly in understanding the role of aerosol on climate change. In addition, of the physical and chemical properties of the aerosol provides insight into their sources/sinks, atmospheric processes and evolution. The concept for PAEROS evolved from the confluence of many years of experience with field measurements and the expertise gained from developing aerosol instrumentation. Using insights and skills gained from miniaturizing payloads for unmanned aircraft, the team realized the value of incorporating these instruments into a portable aerosol measurement package. In addition, two decades of experience in the field has highlighted the need for a comprehensive, turnkey instrument suite that facilitates the deployment of aerosol instruments in challenging locations. Moreover, by collecting the measurements all in one unit, PAEROS streamlines the data analysis and ultimately improves the data quality. Finally, the selection of sample site is often limited by logistical constraints, such as power and space. The deployment of PAEROS avoids some of these issues as observations can be done at remote or difficult locations where alternative power (i.e., solar or wind) is necessary. The core measurements of PAEROS include continuous measurements of aerosol number concentrations, aerosol size distributions (20 to 5000 nm diameter), cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) spectra (0.06 to 2.5% supersaturation), CCN size distributions, absorbing aerosol, broadband solar fluxes, precipitation, temperature, relative humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction, GPS location, magnetic heading and 3-D accelerations. The PAEROS instrumentation resides in an all-weather case (about the size of a suitcase) that protects the instruments from high winds, rain, freezing conditions, dust and insects. The case measures 81cm H x 54cm W x 36cm D and sits upright to open a door providing access to the instruments. The PAEROS system offers the advantages of easy transport, minimal logistical and installation requirements, and low power consumption. The two PAEROS systems constructed under this MRI are portable (~30 and 35 kg), have a small footprint of less than 0.5 m2, and have low power requirements (< 150 W), which may be provided as either 90-230 VAC or 12 VDC. All the instrumentation and environmental systems interact with a centralized data acquisition and control system (DAQ) to allow for flexible operation during extreme events, such as power outages, excess heat, or freezing conditions. Furthermore, the central DAQ system creates a comprehensive, singular data set with accurate time and location stamping that allows for more effective data analysis and monitoring. PAEROS has already been deployed in several environments, including a snow field in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, on a research vessel off the coast of California, and on a mountaintop in Corsica, France. To fully evaluate the operable temperature range of PAEROS, the system was also tested inside an environmental chamber. PAEROS’s upper ambient temperature limit is about 40°C, which are maximum operating temperatures of the aerosol instruments. The minimum operating temperature is about -40 oC. With relatively few modifications (notably heaters for the inlets and an insulating jacket), PAEROS can be deployed in polar climates as well. The images below highlight the testing and deployment of PAEROS.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)
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Anjuli S. Bamzai
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University of California-San Diego Scripps Inst of Oceanography
La Jolla
United States
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