Modeled source apportionment of black carbon particles coated with a light-scattering shell

Virkkula, Aki

The Aethalometer model has been used widely for estimating the contributions of fossil fuel emissions and biomass burning to equivalent black carbon (eBC). The calculation is based on measured absorption Ångström exponents (inline-formulaαabs). The interpretation of inline-formulaαabs is ambiguous since it is well known that it not only depends on the dominant absorber but also on the size and internal structure of the particles, core size, and shell thickness. In this work the uncertainties of the Aethalometer-model-derived apparent fractions of absorption by eBC from fossil fuel and biomass burning are evaluated with a core–shell Mie model. Biomass-burning fractions (BB(%)) were calculated for pure and coated single BC particles for lognormal unimodal and bimodal size distributions of BC cores coated with ammonium sulfate, a scattering-only material. BB(%) was very seldom 0 % even though BC was the only absorbing material in the simulations. The shape of size distribution plays an important role. Narrow size distributions result in higher inline-formulaαabs and BB(%) values than wide size distributions. The sensitivity of inline-formulaαabs and BB(%) to variations in shell volume fractions is the highest for accumulation-mode particles. This is important because that is where the largest aerosol mass is. For the interpretation of absorption Ångström exponents it would be very good to measure BC size distributions and shell thicknesses together with the wavelength dependency of absorption.

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Virkkula, Aki: Modeled source apportionment of black carbon particles coated with a light-scattering shell. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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