Simultaneous measurement of optical scattering and extinction on dispersed aerosol samples

Kathy D. Dial, Scott Hiemstra, Jonathan E. Thompson

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36 Scopus citations


Accurate and precise measurements of light scattering and extinction by atmospheric particulate matter aid understanding of tropospheric photochemistry and are required for estimates of the direct climate effects of aerosols. In this work, we report on a second generation instrument to simultaneously measure light scattering (bscat) and extinction (bext) coefficient by dispersed aerosols. The ratio of scattering to extinction is known as the single scatter albedo (SSA); thus, the instrument is referred to as the albedometer. Extinction is measured with the well-established cavity ring-down (CRD) technique, and the scattering coefficient is determined through collection of light scattered from the CRD beam. The improved instrument allows reduction in sample volume to <1% of the original design, and a reduction in response time by a factor of >30. Through using a commercially available condensation particle counter (CPC), we have measured scattering (σscat) and extinction (σext) cross sections for size-selected ammonium sulfate and nigrosin aerosols. In most cases, the measured scattering and extinction cross section were within 1 standard deviation of the accepted values generated from Mie theory suggesting accurate measurements are made. While measurement standard deviations for bext and bscat were generally <1 Mm-1 when the measurement cell was sealed or purged with filtered air, relative standard deviations >0.1 for these variables were observed when the particle number density was low. It is inferred that statistical fluctuations of the absolute number of particles within the probe beam leads to this effect. However, measured relative precision in albedo is always superior to that which would be mathematically propagated assuming independent measurements of bscat and b ext. Thus, this report characterizes the measurement precision achieved, evaluates the potential for systematic error to be introduced through light absorption by gases, presents comparisons with Mie theory, and provides ambient monitoring data collected on a mineral dust dominated aerosol at our location.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7885-7896
Number of pages12
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010


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