'Lung in a box' tells you how much pollution is in the air

Harvey Jeffries is an atmospheric chemist studying the relationship between pollution and human health. We already know that inhaling toxic gases can get deep inside our lungs and cause damage, but how can we use that information to protect ourselves from harm?

Since lung cells send out chemical signals when they're stressed, scientists can try to recreate this scenario in a lab. But making pollution isn't the easiest venture. Researchers approached the challenge a couple different ways, but they weren't coming close enough to real-world pollution. Most importantly, the tests didn't consider that real smog gets more toxic the longer it's heated by the sun.

To fix this, Jeffries built a sweat lodge of sorts, a place where exhaust can bake under the sun's rays. They also needed to expose lung cells to the pollution they were creating in the smog chamber, though. So, he and his team built a contraption that passed pollution through an electric field. The electric field then gave the particles a positive charge and then pumped them into a chamber with a positively charged plate that pushed the pollution directly onto waiting lung cells. The machine can be shrunk down into a portable "lung in a box" to accurately see how harmful the air is anywhere.


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