Laboratory and field performance of a laser particle counter for measuring aeolian sand transport

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Hugenholtz, Chris H.
Barchyn, Thomas E.
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This paper reports the results of laboratory and field tests that evaluate the performance of a new laser particle counter for measuring aeolian sand transport. The Wenglor® model YH03PCT8 (Wenglor) consists of a laser (655 nm), photo sensor, and switching circuit. When a particle passes through the 0.6 mm diameter, 30 mm long laser beam, the sensor outputs a digital signal. Laboratory tests with medium sand and a vertical gravity flume show that the Wenglor count rate scales approximately linearly with mass flux up to the saturation point of the sensor, after which the count rate decreases despite increasing mass flux. Saturation depends on the diameter and concentration of particles in the airstream and may occur during extreme events in the field. Below saturation sensor performance is relatively consistent; the mean difference between average count rate response was between 50 and 100 counts. Field tests provide a complimentary frame of reference for evaluating the performance of the Wenglor under varying environmental conditions and to gauge its performance with respect to a collocated piezoelectric impact sensor (Sensit H11-B). During 136.5 h of deployment on an active sand dune the relative proportion of time sand transport recorded by two Wenglors was 0.09% and 0.79%, compared to 4.68% by the Sensit H11-B. The weak performance of the Wenglors is attributed to persistent lens contamination from adhesion of sand grains on the sensors after rainfall. However, during dry and windy conditions the Wenglor performance improved substantially; sensors measured a concentration of sand particles in the airstream more than seven times greater than that measured by the Sensit. Between the two Wenglors, the mean absolute count rate difference was 6.16 counts per second, with a standard deviation of 8.53 counts per second. For short-term measurement campaigns in dry conditions, therefore, the Wenglor is relatively consistent and can outperform the Sensit in detecting particles in the airstream. The Sensit, however, is more reliable in detecting particle transport during longer unattended deployments. Two additional field tests show that the sensor is well-suited to the measurement of snow drifting but could be ineffective in dusty settings because of lens contamination. Overall, the main advantages of the Wenglor include (1) insensitivity to particle momentum; (2) low measurement variability; (3) low cost ($210 USD); and perhaps most important of all, (4) a consistent design that will improve comparison of results between investigations. At present, no other particle detector used in aeolian research can claim all these characteristics.
Aeolian sand transport , Climate change , Scientific apparatus and instruments
Hugenholtz, C. H., & Barchyn, T. E. (2011). Laboratory and field performance of a laser particle counter for measuring aeolian sand transport. Journal of Geophysical Research.Earth Surface, 116(1) doi: