Karoline K. Johnson 1, Michael H. Bergin1, Armistead G. Russell2, Gayle S.W. Hagler3

School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA

Received: October 27, 2017
Revised: January 25, 2018
Accepted: January 30, 2018
Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2017.10.0418  

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Cite this article:
Johnson, K.K., Bergin, M.H., Russell, A.G. and Hagler, G.S. (2018). Field Test of Several Low-Cost Particulate Matter Sensors in High and Low Concentration Urban Environments. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 18: 565-578. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2017.10.0418


  • Three SHINYEI particle sensors were evaluated against research analyzers.
  • Field testing occurred in Atlanta, GA and Hyderabad, India.
  • Significant differences in lab and field results.
  • Sensors performed poorly at low concentrations < 40 µg m–3.
  • SHINYEI PPD20V performed well under high ambient concentrations < 280 µg m–3.


Detailed quantification of the spatial and temporal variability of ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has, to date, been limited due to the cost and logistics involved with traditional monitoring approaches. New miniaturized particle sensors are a potential strategy to gather more time- and spatially-resolved data, to address data gaps in regions with limited monitoring and to address important air quality research priorities in a more cost-effective manner. This work presents field evaluations and lab testing of three models of low-cost (< $200) PM sensors (SHINYEI: models PPD42NS, PPD20V, PPD60PV) in three locations: urban background (average PM2.5: 8 µg m–3) and roadside in Atlanta, Georgia, USA (average PM2.5: 21 µg m–3), and a location with higher ambient concentrations in Hyderabad, India (average PM2.5: 72 µg m–3). Sensor measurements were compared against reference monitors in the lab using one-minute averages and in field locations using one-hour averages. At the Atlanta sites the sensors were weakly correlated with a tapered element oscillating microbalance (TEOM) at best (R2 ≤ 0.30). In Hyderabad, the PPD20V sensors had the highest correlation with the environmental beta attenuation monitor (E-BAM) (R2 > 0.80), however the same sensors had poor agreement if the comparison was restricted to lower concentrations (R2 = ~0, < 40 µg m–3). The results of this work indicate the potential usefulness of these sensors, including the PPD20V, for higher concentration applications (< ~250 µg m–3). These field-testing results provide important insights into the varying performance of low-cost PM sensors under highly contrasting atmospheric conditions. The inconsistent performance results underscore the need for rigorous evaluation of optical particle sensors in the laboratory and in diverse field environments.

Keywords: Field calibration; Fine particulate matter; SHINYEI; Low-cost sensor.


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