Black carbon reference material

This web page is the result of a bottom-up initiative of researchers working in the field of fire-derived organic materials. The aim of this initiative is to facilitate comparative analyses of black carbon (BC) in diverse environmental matrices. The purpose of this web page is to provide information for ordering the reference materials for BC and to give an overview of available publications related to these materials.



The term black carbon (BC) is a general one applied to various carbonaceous products of incomplete combustion and includes chars, charcoals and soots. BC is ubiquitous in the environment, including in aerosols, sediments and soils. Current intercomparison efforts have made clear the need for a suite of widely available and representative BC benchmark materials. To address this need, an international steering committee was formed during the 1999 Geochemical Society meeting.


Recommendations include

i) five BC-containing environmental matrices for which BC quantification is often sought, namely aerosol, two soils, marine sediment and dissolved organic matter

ii) three laboratory-produced BC-rich materials, namely soot, wood charcoal and grass charcoal, and

iii) four potentially interfering materials, creating BC during analysis (melanoidin, shale, two coals).

This collection had to be chosen to balance a number of competing demands. Materials must be:

  1. generally available
  2. homogeneous
  3. stable over a longer period of time
  4. inexpensive to obtain
  5. represent natural samples