It is possible to breathe in fine particulates that are smaller than 10 micrometers (particulate matter, PM10) and they are therefore harmful to health. As wood furnaces contribute significantly to fine particulate emissions (in addition to diesel engines), measures for reducing these emissions are important. Basic research has shown that three completely different types of fine particulate can occur during wood combustion:
- Inorganic, primarily salty compounds from the ash.
- Soot resulting from incomplete combustion at high temperatures and with a lack of air.
- Condensable organic compounds from combustion at low temperatures.
Additionally, secondary aerosols can be generated in the atmosphere from volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We can analyze the toxicity of the particulates in order to reliably assess the effects of different combustion methods and fuels and to find measures for reducing the levels of fine particulates. The generation of secondary aerosols is also examined in cooperation with the Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI).