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Our Story

Research into methods for the real-time measurement of light absorbing aerosols began in Berkeley in 1978.  The first-ever Aethalometer® was deployed in a field study in the summer of 1980: the first aircraft measurements were made in 1982, and in 1986 an Aethalometer started making measurements of aerosol Black Carbon at the most remote location on the planet, the South Pole Observatory.  Magee Scientific Company was established that same year to further develop and commercialize the Aethalometer, and make it available to the aerosol research and monitoring community.  Aethalometers have been used in increasing numbers over the years: almost 2,000 instruments have been delivered to locations on all 7 continents, and almost 5,000 reports using Aethalometer data have been published in the open scientific literature.

The History of the Aethalometer®

The Aethalometer is the instrument most-used in the world for the real-time measurement of light absorbing Black (or ‘Elemental’) carbon aerosol particles.  Almost two thousand Aethalometers have been delivered to locations on all seven continents – from the Sahara Desert to the South Pole, from Brazil to Tibet, from the streets of New York City to the mountaintop of Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

In 1979 the Aethalometer was first conceptualized; prototypes were developed during the 1980’s for research projects at remote locations. 

In 1986, Magee Scientific was formed and the first commercial unit was delivered. 

In 1995, production was transferred to Europe.

In 1997, the basic AE16 Aethalometer measuring aerosol Black Carbon at 880 nm was joined by models offering optical analysis at additional wavelengths.  The AE21 series added analysis in the near-ultraviolet at 370 nm, which had been found to respond with great sensitivity to aromatic organic species found in wood smoke and tobacco smoke.  The AE31 series introduced optical analysis at 7 wavelengths from 370 nm to 950 nm.  Analysis across the optical spectrum has found widespread application in studies of source apportionment, atmospheric optics, and radiative transfer.

In 2001, the AE42 Portable Aethalometer was announced, offering the same electronics, analytical performance and instrument features: but packaged in a smaller chassis with an internal battery for mobile operation.  This extended the applications in the area of public health, epidemiological studies, and field work.  The AE42 enabled real-time measurements of carbon particulate concentrations on buses and trains, in living and working areas, in hospitals, airports and other public spaces; and mobile mapping.

In 2002, the ‘Extended Range’ option was offered on all models for enhanced performance in locations of high aerosol concentration, as an alternative to the original ‘High Sensitivity’ version.

In 2007, the company “Aerosol” was established in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to concentrate exclusively on the science, technology and commercialization of instrumentation for carbonaceous aerosol measurements.

2008 saw the start of the development of a new Aethalometer: the ‘Next Generation’ Model AE33.  This incorporated scientific and technical advances designed to offer greatly improved measurement performance, user features, communications and interface: and built-in features to perform routine performance tests and data quality validation.  Most importantly, the new instrument incorporated the patented DualSpot™ measurement method.  This provides two significant advantages: elimination of the changes in response due to ‘aerosol loading’ effects; and a real-time calculation of the ‘loading compensation’ parameter which offers insights into aerosol optical properties. 

In 2012, the Model AE33 was released after extensive development and testing in conjunction with leading research institutes of Europe. 

In 2015, we obtained a license from the Desert Research Institute (Reno, NV, USA) to manufacture and commercialize the “DRI-2015” Multi-Wavelength Thermal Carbon Analyzer.

In 2017, we announced the Total Carbon Analyzer, Model TCA-08.  This revolutionary instrument measures the Total Carbon Content (TC) of suspended aerosol particles in real-time for monitoring and scientific applications.


Optical attenuation method developed
Aethalometer concept developed; research prototype
First field test, first publication
Measurements of BC at remote locations as tracer for long-range atmospheric circulation
Magee Scientific Co. founded in California
Recognition of importance of BC as tracer for the adverse health effects of diesel exhaust
Manufacturing starts in Slovenia under OEM contract: AE16 (1 wavelength); AE21 (2 wavelengths); AE31 (7 wavelengths).
Recognition of importance of BC aerosols for climate change forcing
US EPA / ETV approval of AE31 Aethalometer
Aerosol Co. founded in Slovenia for development of Aethalometers
Development of “MicroAeth”
‘Pattern Approval’ of AE31 Aethalometer in PR China
New model AE-33 Aethalometer released
US EPA / ETV approval of AE33 Aethalometer
License obtained from DRI to manufacture ‘DRI-2015’ multi-wavelength thermal carbon analyzer
Total Carbon Analyzer released