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A gravimetric approach to providing SI traceability for concentration measurementresults of mercury vapor at ambient air levels

Hugo Ent1, Inge van Andel1, Maurice Heemskerk1, Peter van Otterloo1, Wijnand Bavius1, Annarita Baldan1, Milena Horvat2, Richard J C Brown3 and Christophe R Quétel4.

1 VSL, Thijsseweg 11, 2629JA Delft, The Netherlands
2 Jožef Stefan Institute, Jamova 39, Ljubljana, Slovenia
3 Analytical Science Division, National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 0LW, UK
4 European Commission—Joint Research Centre—Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements,
Retieseweg 111-2440 Geel, Belgium

Published 13 October 2014 Meas. Sci. Technol. 25 (2014) 115801.

Current measurement and calibration capabilities for mercury vapor in air are maintained at levels of 0.2–40 μg Hg m−3. In this work, a mercury vapor generator has been developed to establish metrological traceability to the international system of units (SI) for mercury vapor measurement results ≤15 ng Hg m−3, i.e. closer to realistic ambient air concentrations (1–2 ng Hg m−3) [1]. Innovations developed included a modified type of diffusion cell, a new measurement method to weigh the loss in (mercury) mass of these diffusion cells during use (ca. 6–8 μg mass difference between successive weighings), and a new housing for the diffusion cells to maximize flow characteristics and to minimize temperature variations and adsorption effects. The newly developed mercury vapor generator system was tested by using diffusion cells generating 0.8 and 16 ng Hg min−1. The results also show that the filter system, to produce mercury free air, is working properly. Furthermore, and most importantly, the system is producing a flow with a stable mercury vapor content. Some additional improvements are still required to allow the developed mercury vapor generator to produce SI traceable mercury vapor concentrations, based upon gravimetry, at much lower concentration levels and reduced measurement uncertainties than have been achieved previously. The challenges to be met are especially related to developing more robust diffusion cells and better mass measurement conditions. The developed mercury vapor generator will contribute to more reliable measurement results of mercury vapor at ambient and background air levels, and also to better safety standards and cost reductions in industrial processes, such as the liquefied natural gas field, where aluminum main cryogenic heat exchangers are used which are particularly prone to corrosion caused by mercury. Keywords: mercury, mercury vapor, mercury emissions, ambient air, fuels, dynamic mercury vapor generator, traceable mercury vapor measurement results. (Some figures may appear in colour only in the online journal).

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