An analysis of radiative absorption and scattering by clusters of spheres in the Rayleigh limit is developed with an electrostatics analysis. This approach assumes that the largest dimension of the cluster is significantly smaller than the wavelength of the radiation. The electric field that is incident upon and scattered by the cluster can then be represented by the gradient of a potential that in turn satisfies Laplace’s equation. An analytical solution for the potential that exactly satisfies the boundary conditions at the surfaces of the spheres is obtained with a coupled spherical harmonics method. The components of the polarizability tensor and the absorption, scattering, and depolarization factors are obtained from the solution. Calculations are performed on fractallike clusters of spheres, with refractive-index values that are characteristic of carbonaceous soot in the visible and the IR wavelengths. Results indicate that the absorption cross sections of fractal soot clusters can be significantly larger in the mid-IR wavelengths than what is predicted for Rayleigh-limit spheres that have the same total volume. The absorption cross section (relative to a sphere of the same volume) is dependent on the number of spheres in the aggregate for aggregates with up to approximately 100 primary spheres, and for larger aggregates the relative absorption becomes constant. The predicted spectral variation of soot absorption in the visible and the mid-IR wavelengths is shown to agree well with experimental measurements.
© 1995 Optical Society of America
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