Fractal parameters of individual soot particles determined using electron tomography: Implications for optical properties

Kouji Adachi, Serena H. Chung, Heiner Friedrich, P R Buseck

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119 Scopus citations


The morphologies of soot particles are both complex and important. They influence soot atmospheric lifetimes, global distributions, and climate impacts. Particles can have complex geometries with overlapping projecting parts and pores that are difficult to infer from the conventional techniques used to study them. We used electron tomography with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) to determine three-dimensional (3D) properties such as fractal dimension (Df), radius of gyration (Rg), volume (V), surface area (As), and structural coefficient (ka) for individual soot particles from the ambient air of an Asian dust (AD) episode and from a U.S. traffic source. The respective median values of Df are 2.4 and 2.2, of Rg are 274 and 251 nm, of As/V are 9.2 and 13.7 × 107 m-1, and of ka are 0.67 and 0.71. The corresponding parameters, when calculated from 2D projections such as TEM images, are considerably less precise and commonly erroneous. Unlike other methods that have been used to derive fractal parameters, our method is applicable to particles of any Df. Using the 3D data, we estimate that mass-normalized scattering cross sections of our AD and traffic soot particles are respectively about 15 and 30 times greater than those of unaggregated spheres, which is the shape assumed in global models to estimate radiative forcing. Accurate 3D information can be used to compute more precise optical properties, which are important for estimating and direct radiative forcing and improving our understanding of the climate impact of soot.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD14202
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 27 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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