Enhanced light absorption and scattering by carbon soot aerosol internally mixed with sulfuric acid

Alexei F. Khalizov, Huaxin Xue, Lin Wang, Jun Zheng, Renyi Zhang

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200 Scopus citations


Light absorption by carbon soot increases when the particles are internally mixed with nonabsorbing materials, leading to increased radiative forcing, but the magnitude of this enhancement is a subject of great uncertainty. We have performed laboratory experiments of the optical properties of fresh and internally mixed carbon soot aerosols with a known particle size, morphology, and the mixing state. Flame-generated soot aerosol is size-selected with a double-differential mobility analyzer (DMA) setup to eliminate multiply charged particle modes and then exposed to gaseous sulfuric acid (10 9-10 10 molecule cm -3) and water vapor (5-80% relative humidity, RH). Light extinction and scattering by fresh and internally mixed soot aerosol are measured at 532 nm wavelength using a cavity ring-down spectrometer and an integrating nephelometer, respectively, and the absorption is derived as the difference between extinction and scattering. The optical properties of fresh soot are independent of RH, whereas soot internally mixed with sulfuric acid exhibits significant enhancement in light absorption and scattering, increasing with the mass fraction of sulfuric acid coating and relative humidity. For soot particles with an initial mobility diameter of 320 nm and a 40% H 2SO 4 mass coating fraction, absorption and scattering are increased by 1.4- and 13-fold at 80% RH, respectively. Also, the single scattering albedo of soot aerosol increases from 0.1 to 0.5 after coating and humidification. Additional measurements with soot particles that are first coated with sulfuric acid and then heated to remove the coating show that both scattering and absorption are enhanced by irreversible restructuring of soot aggregates to more compact globules. Depending on the initial size and density of soot aggregates, restructuring acts to increase or decrease the absorption cross-section, but the combination of restructuring and encapsulation always results in an increased absorption for internally mixed soot. Mass absorption cross-sections (MAC) for fresh soot aggregates are size dependent, increasing from 6.7 ± 0.7 m 2 g -1 for 155 nm particles to 8.7 ± 0.1 m 2 g -1 for 320 nm particles. After exposure of soot to sulfuric acid, MAC is as high as 12.6 m 2 g -1 for 320 nm particles at 80% RH. Our results imply that optical properties of soot are significantly altered within its atmospheric lifetime, leading to greater impact on visibility, local air quality, and radiative climate forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1066-1074
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 12 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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