Dean B. Atkinson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemistry



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 113 pages)




Scientists have been observing a change in the climate since the beginning of the 20th century that cannot be attributed to any of the natural influences of the past. Natural and anthropogenic substances and processes perturb the Earth's energy budget, contributing to climate change. In particular, aerosols (particles suspended in air) have long been recognized to be important in processes throughout the atmosphere that affect climate. They directly influence the radiative balance of the Earth's atmosphere, affect cloud formation and properties, and are also key air pollutants that contribute to a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Despite their importance, aerosol particles are less well-characterized than greenhouse gases with respect to their sources, temporal and spatial concentration distribution, and physical and chemical properties. This uncertainty is mainly caused by the variable and insufficiently understood sources, formation and transformation processes, and complex composition of atmospheric particles. Instruments that can precisely and accurately measure and characterize the aerosol physical and chemical properties are in great demand. Atmospheric relative humidity (RH) has a crucial impact on the particles' optical properties; the RH dependence of the particle extinction coefficient is an important parameter for radiative forcing and thus climate change modeling. In this work a Humidity-Controlled Cavity Ring-Down (HC-CRD) aerosol optical instrument is described and its ability to measure RH dependent extinction coefficients and related hygroscopicity parameters is characterized.

The HC-CRD is capable of simultaneously measuring the aerosol extinction coefficient at three wavelengths (λ = 355, 532, and 1064 nm) and three different RHs (typically 20%, 50%, and 80%). A range of chemicals and their mixtures were used to produce laboratory generated aerosols. Three mixture systems include one inorganic salts mixture system consisting of (NH4)2SO4, NH4HSO4, Na2SO4, NaHSO4 serve as surrogates of the ionic salts found in the atmosphere. Two organic mixture systems were investigated: mixtures of NaCl, D-glucose, sucrose, and glycine are benchmarks for compounds emitted from biomass burning. Finally, mixtures of (NH4)2SO4 (ammonium sulfate, AS) with a series of dicarboxylic acids including malonic acid, adipic acid, and azelaic acid are used as benchmarks to mimic urban pollutants.

The extinction coefficients were obtained as a function of RH from the HC-CRD measurements, from which optical growth factors f(RH) and γ(RH) values can be determined to examine their dependence on chemical composition. A volume mixing rule was used to calculate the effective refractive index of the binary substrate mixtures, since both size and composition change during water uptake. The SDA/FMC algorithm developed by O'Neill, et al. 2005 is used to extract the van de Hulst phase shift parameter (Ρeff) from three-wavelength measurements of extinction. The fine mode fraction of extinction (η) and fine mode effective radius (Reff) of laboratory generated aerosol particles can be then determined. An iterative algorithm was developed to retrieve the change in refractive index of particles as function of RH. The calculated Reff of aerosols at different RHs were used to obtain the physical size growth factor (gf), and κ(RH). The size changes as a function of water uptake describe the dependence of aerosol optical properties on chemical composition.

This work demonstrates the capability of conducting aerosol optical measurements using HC-CRD to determine the RH dependence of aerosol optical properties. The HC-CRD measurements combined with the SDA/FMC method to retrieve aerosol size for laboratory generated aerosols establish the connection between the optical properties and the aerosol particles' chemical compositions. It also underlines the importance and need for future investigation on the hygroscopic properties of atmospheric aerosols. This work is successfully developed a method that enables using the aerosols optical measurements to predict the compositions; it will greatly contribute to the atmospheric aerosol measurement and global climate modelling.

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