Smoke is produced when something burns. Smoke consists of gases and solid particles suspended in it. Therefore smoke is an aerosol. Because smoke is warmer than the surrounding air, smoke rises when there is no wind pushing it down.
Smoke is harmful to animals and humans. It damages the lungs. It depends on what fuel the smoke came from. Smoke from a wood fire is less harmful than when burning plastic. It also depends on whether the smoke is very concentrated or whether the air has already greatly diluted it.
The smoke leaves a black layer on the inner walls of the chimney, the soot. You have to remove it from time to time so that the smoke can escape well. In the past, soot was also used to make ink.
What types of smoke are there?
It depends on what material was burned. An important role is also played by whether there was a lot of oxygen nearby when it was burned. For example, if there is enough oxygen, carbon dioxide is much more likely to be produced than carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is not actually toxic because we also breathe it out. Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, is a real poison gas.
Poor fuel is, for example, wet wood, old oil, or fat. Much more soot and fly ash also get into the air. This colors the smoke gray or even black. Ship engines, for example, often run on petroleum that has hardly been cleaned. It’s cheap but comes with a lot of smoke.
What a car emits is called “exhaust gas”. You need this name because there are almost no fixed components in it. In addition to various gases, tiny water droplets are produced during combustion. They color the exhaust fumes white. This is especially noticeable when the engine is still cold.
Factories have filters that can be used to clean the smoke. You can achieve great success with this today. Exhaust filters are also installed in diesel cars. Catalytic converters are used in petrol engines. These “post-combustors” ensure that fewer toxic gases are produced. However, the carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants cannot be filtered out. It is a greenhouse gas and contributes a lot to climate change.
Can smoke also be useful?
Smoking is a very old method of preserving meat and fish. It also changes the taste of these foods. Lots of people really like that.
Beekeepers know a special trick to prevent the bees from stinging them: They calm the little animals with smoke. In addition, there is protection provided by their special clothing.
Fumigation can drive away pests. Some hunters use smoke to drive animals such as badgers and foxes out of their burrows in order to kill them.
Smoke signals can be used to send messages over long distances. Many Native American tribes used this method. It is very similar to the election of the Pope in the Vatican. When a pope is elected, white smoke is released. Black smoke indicates that the assembly is not ready and will be re-elected.
In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, incense is burned on special occasions during the service. To do this, the resin of certain trees is burned in a vessel. The smoke smells strong and pleasant. The ancient Egyptians used incense when the dead were mummified. In the Bible, it is considered one of the gifts of the Three Kings.
Some people like the smoke from cigarettes and related tobacco products. It also gives you a good feeling for a certain amount of time. However, the smoke damages the lungs and other parts of the body.