Retrieval of the complex refractive index of aerosol droplets from optical tweezers measurements

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

53 Citations (Scopus)


The cavity enhanced Raman scattering spectrum recorded from an aerosol droplet provides a unique fingerprint of droplet radius and refractive index, assuming that the droplet is homogeneous in composition. Aerosol optical tweezers are used in this study to capture a single droplet and a Raman fingerprint is recorded using the trapping laser as the source for the Raman excitation. We report here the retrieval of the real part of the refractive index with an uncertainty of +/- 0.0012 (better than +/- 0.11%), simultaneously measuring the size of the micrometre sized liquid droplet with a precision of better than 1 nm (< +/- 0.05% error). In addition, the equilibrium size of the droplet is shown to depend on the laser irradiance due to optical absorption, which elevates the droplet temperature above that of the ambient gas phase. Modulation of the illuminating laser power leads to a modulation in droplet size as the temperature elevation is altered. By measuring induced size changes of <1 nm, we show that the imaginary part of the refractive index can be retrieved even when less than 10 x 10(-9) with an accuracy of better than +/- 0.5 x 10(-9). The combination of these measurements allows the complex refractive index of a droplet to be retrieved with high accuracy, with the possibility of making extremely sensitive optical absorption measurements on aerosol samples and the testing of frequently used mixing rules for treating aerosol optical properties. More generally, this method provides an extremely sensitive approach for measuring refractive indices, particularly under solute supersaturation conditions that cannot be accessed by simple bulk-phase measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3037-3047
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this