Measuring the mass extinction efficiency of elemental carbon in rural aerosol

A. M. Dillner, C. Stein, S. M. Larson, R. Hitzenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous measurements of the mass absorption efficiency of ambient elemental carbon (EC) indicate that EC optical properties vary with location and imply that the variations may be due to different particle size distributions and composition at different locations (Liousse et al. 1993). For this reason, optical properties appropriate to regional characteristics of EC, determined over the wavelengths of light significant for aerosol extinction, are needed to adequately model the radiative impact of this species. Here we present a method for measuring one of these properties, the mass extinction efficiency (m2 g-1) of EC, as a function of particle size and wavelength of light. In this method, size segregated atmospheric aerosol particles are collected on Nucleopore filters. The filter samples are extracted in a mixture of 30% isopropanol and 70% deionized distilled water to form a suspension of insoluble EC particles. Transmission of light through the extraction liquid is measured over wavelengths from 300 to 800 nm using a spectrophotometer. The transmission measurements taken through the liquid extract are mathematically converted to EC extinction coefficients in air. Although the conversion is a function of a parameter determined from Mie theory, which assumes monodisperse, spherical particles with a known density and refractive index relative to the medium, the method is shown to be reasonably insensitive to these assumptions. Using EC mass concentration obtained from a parallel sample, the EC mass extinction efficiency (in air) is calculated from the extinction coefficient (in air). This method is applied to a rural Midwestern, midcontinental aerosol. In general, the EC mass extinction efficiency in air is highest at lower wavelengths and for smaller particles. For particles with diameters between 0.09 and 2.7 μm and an assumed density of 1.9 g cm-3, the measured EC mass extinction efficiency at 550 nm ranges from 7.3 to 1.7 m2 g-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1009-1021
Number of pages13
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Pollution


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