Comparison of the Accuracy of Aerosol Refractive Index Measurements from Single Particle and Ensemble Techniques

Bernard J. Mason, Simon-John King, Rachael E. H. Miles, Katherine M. Manfred, Andrew M. J. Rickards, Jin Kim, Jonathan P. Reid, Andrew J. Orr-Ewing

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

34 Citations (Scopus)


The ability of two techniques, aerosol cavity ring down spectroscopy (A-CRDS) and optical tweezers, to retrieve the refractive index of atmospherically relevant aerosol was compared through analysis of supersaturated sodium nitrate at a range of relative humidities. Accumulation mode particles in the diameter range 300-600 nm were probed using A-CRDS, with optical tweezer measurements performed on coarse mode particles several micrometers in diameter. A correction for doubly charged particles was applied in the A-CRDS measurements. Both techniques were found to retrieve refractive indices in good agreement with previously published results from Tang and Munkelwitz, with a precision of +/- 0.0012 for the optical tweezers and +/- 0.02 for the A-CRDS technique. The coarse mode optical tweezer measurements agreed most closely with refractive index predictions made using a mass weighted linear mixing rule. The uncertainty in the refractive index retrieved by the A-CRDS technique prevented discrimination between predictions using both mass-weighted and volume-weighted linear mixing rules No efflorescence or kinetic limitations on water transport between the particle and the gas phase were observed at relative humidities down to 14%. The magnitude of the uncertainty in refractive index retrieved using the A-CRDS technique reflects the challenges in determining particle optical properties in the accumulation mode, where the extinction efficiency varies steeply with particle size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8547-8556
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2012


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