Measuring light absorption by freshly emitted organic aerosols: optical artifacts in traditional solvent-extraction-based methods
Recent studies have shown that organic aerosol (OA) could have a nontrivial role in atmospheric light absorption at shorter visible wavelengths. Good estimates of OA light absorption are therefore necessary to better estimate radiative forcing due to these aerosols in climate models. One of the common techniques used to measure OA light absorption is the solvent extraction technique from filter samples which involves the use of a spectrophotometer to measure bulk absorbance by the solvent-soluble organic fraction of particulate matter. Measured solvent-phase absorbance is subsequently converted to particle-phase absorption coefficient using scaling factors. The conventional view is to apply a correction factor of 2 to absorption coefficients obtained from solvent-extracted OA based on Mie calculations. The appropriate scaling factors are a function of biases due to incomplete extraction of organic carbon (OC) by solvents and size-dependent absorption properties of OA. The range for these biases along with their potential dependence on burn conditions is an unexplored area of research. Here, we performed a comprehensive laboratory study involving three solvents (water, methanol, and acetone) to investigate the bias in absorption coefficients obtained from solvent-extraction-based photometry techniques as compared to in situ particle-phase absorption for freshly emitted OA from biomass burning. We correlated the bias with OC∕TC (total carbon) mass ratio and single scattering albedo (SSA) and observed that the conventionally used correction factor of 2 for water and methanol-extracted OA might not be extensible to all systems, and we suggest caution while using such correction factors to estimate particle-phase OA absorption coefficients. Furthermore, a linear correlation between SSA and the OC∕TC ratio was also established. Finally, from the spectroscopic data, we analyzed the differences in absorption Ångström exponents (AÅE) obtained from solution- and particulate-phase measurements. We noted that AÅE from solvent-phase measurements could deviate significantly from their OA counterparts.