Articles | Volume 13, issue 14
Research article
18 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 18 Jul 2016

Methods to retrieve the complex refractive index of aquatic suspended particles: going beyond simple shapes

Albert-Miquel Sánchez and Jaume Piera

Abstract. The scattering properties of aquatic suspended particles have many optical applications. Several data inversion methods have been proposed to estimate important features of particles, such as their size distribution or their refractive index. Most of the proposed methods are based on the Lorenz–Mie theory to solve Maxwell's equations, where particles are considered homogeneous spheres. A generalization that allows consideration of more complex-shaped particles is the T-matrix method. Although this approach imposes some geometrical restrictions (particles must be rotationally symmetrical) it is applicable to many life forms of phytoplankton. In this paper, three different scenarios are considered in order to compare the performance of several inversion methods for retrieving refractive indices. The error associated with each method is discussed and analyzed. The results suggest that inverse methods using the T-matrix approach are useful to accurately retrieve the refractive indices of particles with complex shapes, such as for many phytoplankton organisms.

Short summary
In this paper, several methods for the retrieval of the refractive indices are used in three different examples modeling different shapes and particle size distributions. The error associated with each method is discussed and analyzed. It is finally demonstrated that those inverse methods using a genetic algorithm provide optimal estimations relative to other techniques that, although faster, are less accurate.
Final-revised paper