Comparison of Methods for Predicting the Compositional Dependence of the Density and Refractive Index of Organic-Aqueous Aerosols

Chen Cai, Rachael E H Miles*, Michael I. Cotterell, Aleks Marsh, Grazia Rovelli, Andrew M J Rickards, Yun Hong Zhang, Jonathan P. Reid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
350 Downloads (Pure)


Representing the physicochemical properties of aerosol particles of complex composition is of crucial importance for understanding and predicting aerosol thermodynamic, kinetic, and optical properties and processes and for interpreting and comparing analysis methods. Here, we consider the representations of the density and refractive index of aqueous-organic aerosol with a particular focus on the dependence of these properties on relative humidity and water content, including an examination of the properties of solution aerosol droplets existing at supersaturated solute concentrations. Using bulk phase measurements of density and refractive index for typical organic aerosol components, we provide robust approaches for the estimation of these properties for aerosol at any intermediate composition between pure water and pure solute. Approximately 70 compounds are considered, including mono-, di- and tricarboxylic acids, alcohols, diols, nitriles, sulfoxides, amides, ethers, sugars, amino acids, aminium sulfates, and polyols. We conclude that the molar refraction mixing rule should be used to predict the refractive index of the solution using a density treatment that assumes ideal mixing or, preferably, a polynomial dependence on the square root of the mass fraction of solute, depending on the solubility limit of the organic component. Although the uncertainties in the density and refractive index predictions depend on the range of subsaturated compositional data available for each compound, typical errors for estimating the solution density and refractive index are less than ±0.1% and ±0.05%, respectively. Owing to the direct connection between molar refraction and the molecular polarizability, along with the availability of group contribution models for predicting molecular polarizability for organic species, our rigorous testing of the molar refraction mixing rule provides a route to predicting refractive indices for aqueous solutions containing organic molecules of arbitrary structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6604-6617
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number33
Early online date8 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2016

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