Laboratory comparison of low-cost particulate matter sensors to measure transient events of pollution—Part B—Particle Number Concentrations

Florentin Michel Jacques Bulot*, Hugo Savill Russell, Mohsen Rezaei, Matthew Stanley Johnson, Steven James Ossont, Andrew Kevin Richard Morris, Philip James Basford, Natasha Hazel Celeste Easton, Hazel Louise Mitchell, Gavin Lee Foster, Matthew Loxham, Simon James Cox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low-cost Particulate Matter (PM) sensors offer an excellent opportunity to improve our knowledge about this type of pollution. Their size and cost, which support multi-node network deployment, along with their temporal resolution, enable them to report fine spatio-temporal resolution for a given area. These sensors have known issues across performance metrics. Generally, the literature focuses on the PM mass concentration reported by these sensors, but some models of sensors also report Particle Number Concentrations (PNCs) segregated into different PM size ranges. In this study, eight units each of Alphasense OPC-R1, Plantower PMS5003 and Sensirion SPS30 have been exposed, under controlled conditions, to short-lived peaks of PM generated using two different combustion sources of PM, exposing the sensors’ to different particle size distributions to quantify and better understand the low-cost sensors performance across a range of relevant environmental ranges. The PNCs reported by the sensors were analysed to characterise sensor-reported particle size distribution, to determine whether sensor-reported PNCs can follow the transient variations of PM observed by the reference instruments and to determine the relative impact of different variables on the performances of the sensors. This study shows that the Alphasense OPC-R1 reported at least five size ranges independently from each other, that the Sensirion SPS30 reported two size ranges independently from each other and that all the size ranges reported by the Plantower PMS5003 were not independent of each other. It demonstrates that all sensors tested here could track the fine temporal variation of PNCs, that the Alphasense OPC-R1 could closely follow the variations of size distribution between the two sources of PM, and it shows that particle size distribution and composition are more impactful on sensor measurements than relative humidity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7657
Number of pages29
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2023


  • air pollution
  • fine particles
  • laboratory study
  • low-cost sensors
  • particle number concentration
  • particulate matter
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/N012070/1
  • EP/T517859/1
  • BB/V004573/1

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