Hydroxl Radical

Essential Pittsburgh
5:51 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Tracking the "Secret" Life of Soot

Daniel Tkacik studies soot particles from vehicles in his temporary lab: the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh.
Credit Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Breathing in the tiny particles emitted by automobile engines and power plants has been widely accepted by scientists and the public as being something to avoid.

But for a long time it was believed that these tiny particles, known as soot, were the sole toxic ingredient entering the lungs.  However, Reid Frazier of the Allegheny Front has discovered quite a different story. Scientists have found that soot leads a “secret life” after being released into the air, during which it picks up gases and other poisonous hitchhikers.  Before the soot actually enters the lungs these particles go through a unique evolution that involves a surprising combination of molecules.

Read more