Articles | Volume 13, issue 2
Research article
16 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 16 Jan 2013

Wavelength and NOx dependent complex refractive index of SOAs generated from the photooxidation of toluene

T. Nakayama, K. Sato, Y. Matsumi, T. Imamura, A. Yamazaki, and A. Uchiyama

Abstract. Recently, secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) generated from anthropogenic volatile organic compounds have been proposed as a possible source of light-absorbing organic compounds, "brown carbon," in the urban atmosphere. However, the atmospheric importance of these SOAs remains unclear due to limited information about their optical properties. In this study, the complex refractive index (RI, m = n-ki values at 405, 532, and 781 nm of the SOAs generated during the photooxidation of toluene (toluene-SOAs) under a variety of initial nitrogen oxide (NOx = NO + NO2) conditions were examined by photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) and cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS). The complex RI-values obtained in the present study and reported in the literature indicate that the k-value, which represents the light absorption of the toluene-SOAs, increased to shorter wavelengths at <532 nm, and the n-value also increased to shorter wavelengths from 781 to 355 nm. The k-values at 405 nm were found to increase from 0.0018 to 0.0072 with increasing initial NOx concentration from 109 to 571 ppbv. The nitrate to organics ratio of the SOAs determined using a high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (H-ToF-AMS) also increased with increasing initial NOx concentration. The RI-values of the SOAs generated during the photooxidation of 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene in the presence of NOx (1,3,5-TMB-SOAs) were also determined to investigate the influence of the chemical structure of the precursor on the optical properties of the SOAs, and it was found that the light absorption of the 1,3,5-TMB-SOAs is negligible at all of the wavelengths investigated (405, 532, and 781 nm). These results can be reasonably explained by the hypothesis that nitroaromatic compounds, such as nitrocresols, are the major contributors to the light absorption of the toluene-SOAs. Using the obtained RI-values, mass absorption cross sections of the toluene-SOAs at 405 nm were estimated to be 0.08–0.52 m2g−1 under typical conditions in an urban atmosphere during the daytime. These results indicate that light absorption by the SOAs potentially contributes to the radiation balance at ultraviolet wavelengths below ~400 nm, specifically when the mass concentrations of the anthropogenic SOAs are significant compared with other light-absorbing particles.

Final-revised paper