Optical and physicochemical properties of brown carbon aerosol: Light scattering, FTIR extinction spectroscopy, and hygroscopic growth

TitleOptical and physicochemical properties of brown carbon aerosol: Light scattering, FTIR extinction spectroscopy, and hygroscopic growth
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsTang M., Alexander J.M, Kwon D., Estillore A.D, Laskina O., Young M.A, Kleiber P.D, Grassian VH
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Date Published2016/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1089-5639
Accession NumberWOS:000378663200009
Keywordsammonium-sulfate; aqueous-phase; black carbon; Distribution; heterogeneous reactions; oligomer formation; secondary organic aerosol; size; solar-radiation; spectral region; substances hulis

A great deal of attention has been paid to brown carbon aerosol in the troposphere because it can both scatter and absorb solar radiation, thus affecting the Earth's climate. However, knowledge of the optical and chemical properties of brown carbon aerosol is still limited. In this study, we have investigated different aspects of the optical properties of brown carbon aerosol that have not been previously explored. These properties include extinction spectroscopy in the mid-infrared region and light scattering at two different visible wavelengths, 532 and 402 nm. A proxy for atmospheric brown carbon aerosol was formed from the aqueous reaction of ammonium sulfate with methylglyoxal. The different optical properties were measured as a function of reaction time for a period of up to 19 days. UV/vis absorption experiments of bulk solutions showed that the optical absorption of aqueous brown carbon solution significantly increases as a function of reaction time in the spectral range from 200 to 700 nm. The analysis of the light scattering data, however, showed no significant differences between ammonium sulfate and brown carbon aerosol particles in the measured scattering phase functions, linear polarization profiles, or the derived real parts of the refractive indices at either 532 or 402 nm, even for the longest reaction times with greatest visible extinction. The light scattering experiments are relatively insensitive to the imaginary part of the refractive index, and it was only possible to place an upper limit of k <= 0.01 on the imaginary index values. These results suggest that after the reaction with methylglyoxal the single scattering albedo of ammonium sulfate aerosol is significantly reduced but that the light scattering properties including the scattering asymmetry parameter, which is a measure of the relative amount of forward-to-backward scattering, remain essentially unchanged from that of unprocessed ammonium sulfate. The optical extinction properties in the mid-IR range (800 to 7000 cm(-1)) also showed no significant changes in either the real or the imaginary parts of the refractive indices for brown carbon aerosol particles when compared to ammonium sulfate. Therefore, changes in the optical properties of ammonium sulfate in the mid-IR spectral range due to reaction with methylglyoxal appear to be insignificant. In addition to these measurements, we have characterized additional physicochemical properties of the brown carbon aerosol particles including hygroscopic growth using a tandem-differential mobility analyzer. Compared to ammonium sulfate, brown carbon aerosol particles are found to have lower deliquescence relative humidity (DRH), efflorescence relative humidity (ERH), and hygroscopic growth at the same relative humidities. Overall, our study provides new details of the optical and physicochemical properties of a class of secondary organic aerosol which may have important implications for atmospheric chemistry and climate.

Short TitleJ. Phys. Chem. A
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