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Black Carbon Measurement – KNF Pumps on a Scientific Adventure
Combining their passion for aviation with a scientific purpose, Guillermo Casamayú and Juan Martín Escobar flew from Patagonia to Alaska and back while conducting carbon dioxide and black carbon measurements. Amounting a flight time of over 150 hours and covering over 40,000 km (over 24,000 mi), the passionate pilots visited more than 22 countries on the American continent. Aboard the self-built airplane: a KNF pump.
Adventure for Science
After about 10 years of building and testing their airplane, the “Correcaminos” (Roadrunner), the two pilots were ready for their big adventure. In 2022, they took off from Ushuaia, Argentina, one of the most southern towns in the world. For carbon dioxide and black carbon measurement, the two friends fitted a Magee Scientific Aethalometer AE43 behind their seats. This black carbon monitor was fed air samples via a pitot tube in the wing, enabling measurements during the flight at 2,500 m altitude. In the Aethalometer, a KNF N 86 diaphragm pump delivered the air samples to the measuring device.
After over one month of flight, crossing most of the American countries, the pilots landed in Alaska from where they returned to Patagonia overflying many remarkable landscapes and points of interest. The collected data are open to the scientific community and have been handed over to the National University of Patagonia and Argentinian National Weather Service, where it is currently analyzed. They collaborate with the Slovenian manufacturer Magee Scientific/Aerosol to create scientific reports, nurturing the global availability of climate data. With these activities, the non-profit initiative is the first to conduct carbon dioxide and black carbon measurement along the route from Patagonia to Alaska.
Black Carbon – Problematic in Many Ways
Black carbon, also known as soot, is the product of incompletely burned carbonaceous material. Sources can be natural like forest fires but can also be caused by deliberate combustion of fossil fuels like coal, diesel, gasoline, or natural gas. Suspended in the air in the form of aerosol particles, black carbon has negative effects on the global climate and human health.
Due to its dark color, it absorbs sunlight very well and contributes to global warming. When inhaled, black carbon has a carcinogenic effect and significantly increases the likelihood of developing cancer. In addition, it has negative effects on the respiratory systems of adults and children. This makes it important to have better data available on these problematic aerosols.
Black Carbon Measurement Relies on KNF Pumps
At the heart of the Aethalometer AE43, a KNF diaphragm gas pump delivers the air to the analysis unit. For an exact carbon dioxide and black carbon measurement, the pump needs to continuously deliver a defined air volume. In addition, it has to run reliably over a long time without maintenance. These requirements led to the choice of a KNF N 86 pump which Magee Scientific/Aerosol also uses for the stationary Aethalometer model AE33 where the pump has proven reliable, robust and long-lasting.
In close cooperation with the manufacturer, KNF has customized the pump to meet their specific requirements. Among other things, the pump is equipped with an advanced brushless DC motor for optimal controllability via a PWM signal and application-specific hydraulic connections. KNF is proud to make a small contribution to climate research in this way, helping to analyze the air in different environments and providing insights into how our climate functions.
The Journey Continues
After the roundtrip, the two pilot friends continue to measure air pollution with every flight they take. Most recently, they overflew forest fires to collect data. And sometimes, their flights lead them to other KNF pumps that work in the name of climate research. One flight, for example, took them to ATTO (Amazonas Tall Tower Observation) where a stationary Aethalometer measures air pollution. This allows for comparing data with two different measuring methods. The two pilots share their adventures on Instagram.
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