Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Research article
27 Jan 2015
Research article |  | 27 Jan 2015

Multi-wavelength optical measurement to enhance thermal/optical analysis for carbonaceous aerosol

L.-W. A. Chen, J. C. Chow, X. L. Wang, J. A. Robles, B. J. Sumlin, D. H. Lowenthal, R. Zimmermann, and J. G. Watson

Abstract. A thermal/optical carbon analyzer equipped with seven-wavelength light source/detector (405–980 nm) for monitoring spectral reflectance (R) and transmittance (T) of filter samples allowed "thermal spectral analysis (TSA)" and wavelength (λ)-dependent organic-carbon (OC)–elemental-carbon (EC) measurements. Optical sensing was calibrated with transfer standards traceable to absolute R and T measurements, adjusted for loading effects to report spectral light absorption (as absorption optical depth (τa, λ)), and verified using diesel exhaust samples. Tests on ambient and source samples show OC and EC concentrations equivalent to those from conventional carbon analysis when based on the same wavelength (~ 635 nm) for pyrolysis adjustment. TSA provides additional information that evaluates black-carbon (BC) and brown-carbon (BrC) contributions and their optical properties in the near infrared to the near ultraviolet parts of the solar spectrum. The enhanced carbon analyzer can add value to current aerosol monitoring programs and provide insight into more accurate OC and EC measurements for climate, visibility, or health studies.