Evaluation of a flow cytometry method to determine size and real refractive index distributions in natural marine particle populations


A flow cytometric (FC) method was developed to retrieve particle size distributions (PSDs) and real refractive index (𝑛 𝑟 nr) information in natural waters. Geometry and signal response of the sensors within the flow cytometer (CytoSense, CytoBuoy b.v., Netherlands) were characterized to form a scattering inversion model based on Mie theory. The procedure produced a mesh of diameter and 𝑛 𝑟 nr isolines where each particle is assigned the diameter and 𝑛 𝑟 nr values of the closest node, producing PSDs and particle real refractive index distributions. The method was validated using polystyrene bead standards of known diameter and polydisperse suspensions of oil with known 𝑛 𝑟 nr, and subsequently applied to natural samples collected across a broad range of UK shelf seas. FC PSDs were compared with independent PSDs produced from data of two LISST-100X instruments (type B and type C). PSD slopes and features were found to be consistent between the FC and the two LISST-100X instruments, but LISST concentrations were found in disagreement with FC concentrations and with each other. FC 𝑛 𝑟 nr values were found to agree with expected refractive index values of typical marine particle components across all samples considered. The determination of particle size and refractive index distributions enabled by the FC method has potential to facilitate identification of the contribution of individual subpopulations to the bulk inherent optical properties and biogeochemical properties of the particle population.
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