Optical trapping combined with Mie spectroscopy is a new technique used to record the refractive index of insoluble organic material extracted from atmospheric aerosol samples over a wide wavelength range. The refractive index of the insoluble organic extracts was shown to follow a Cauchy equation between 460 and 700 nm for organic aerosol extracts collected from urban (London) and remote (Antarctica) locations. Cauchy coefficients for the remote sample were for the Austral summer and gave the Cauchy coefficients of A = 1.467 and B = 1000 nm2 with a real refractive index of 1.489 at a wavelength of 589 nm. Cauchy coefficients for the urban samples varied with season, with extracts collected during summer having Cauchy coefficients of A = 1.465 ± 0.005 and B = 4625 ± 1200 nm2 with a representative real refractive index of 1.478 at a wavelength of 589 nm, whilst samples extracted during autumn had larger Cauchy coefficients of A = 1.505 and B = 600 nm2 with a representative real refractive index of 1.522 at a wavelength of 589 nm. The refractive index of absorbing aerosol was also recorded. The absorption Ångström exponent was determined for woodsmoke and humic acid aerosol extract. Typical values of the Cauchy coefficient for the woodsmoke aerosol extract were A = 1.541 ± 0.03 and B = 14 800 ± 2900 nm2, resulting in a real refractive index of 1.584 ± 0.007 at a wavelength of 589 nm and an absorption Ångström exponent of 8.0. The measured values of refractive index compare well with previous monochromatic or very small wavelength range measurements of refractive index. In general, the real component of the refractive index increases from remote to urban to woodsmoke. A one-dimensional radiative-transfer calculation of the top-of-the-atmosphere albedo was applied to model an atmosphere containing a 3 km thick layer of aerosol comprising pure water, pure insoluble organic aerosol, or an aerosol consisting of an aqueous core with an insoluble organic shell. The calculation demonstrated that the top-of-the-atmosphere albedo increases by 0.01 to 0.04 for pure organic particles relative to water particles of the same size and that the top-of-the-atmosphere albedo increases by 0.03 for aqueous core-shell particles as volume fraction of the shell material increases to 25 %.