Mass absorption efficiency of elemental carbon and water-soluble organic carbon in Beijing, China


The mass absorption efficiency (MAE) of elemental carbon (EC) in Beijing was quantified using a thermal-optical carbon analyzer. The MAE measured at 632 nm was 8.45±1.71 and 9.41±1.92 m2 g-1 during winter and summer respectively. The daily variation of MAE was found to coincide with the abundance of organic carbon (OC), especially the OC to EC ratio, perhaps due to the enhancement by coating with organic aerosol (especially secondary organic aerosol, SOA) or the artifacts resulting from the redistribution of liquid-like organic particles during the filter-based absorption measurements. Using a converting approach that accounts for the discrepancy caused by measurements methods of both light absorption and EC concentration, previously published MAE values were converted to the equivalent-MAE, which is the estimated value if using the same measurement methods as used in this study. The equivalent-MAE was found to be much lower in the regions heavily impacted by biomass burning (e.g., below 2.7 m m2 g-1 for two Indian cities). Results from source samples (including diesel exhaust samples and biomass smoke samples) also demonstrated that emissions from biomass burning would decrease the MAE of EC. Moreover, optical properties of water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) in Beijing were presented. Light absorption by WSOC exhibited strong wavelength (λ) dependence such that absorption varied approximately as λ -7, which was characteristic of the brown carbon spectra. The MAE of WSOC (measured at 365 nm) was 1.79±0.24 and 0.71±0.20 m2 g-1 during winter and summer respectively. The large discrepancy between the MAE of WSOC during winter and summer was attributed to the difference in the precursors of SOA such that anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (AVOCs) should be more important as the precursors of SOA in winter. The MAE of WSOC in Beijing was much higher than results from the southeastern United States which were obtained using the same method as used in this study, perhaps due to the stronger emissions of biomass burning in China. © 2011 Author(s).