The air we breathe is not only important to our own health as it enters our respiratory system, but also to the environment. With increasing pollution and consequently increasing climate change, it is more important than ever to identify sources of pollution as well as monitoring emissions. In order to reduce emissions, it is important to understand what exactly produces them. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI) uses TESCAN FEG-SEM to monitor air quality by analyzing individual particles and their elemental composition.
While the exact quantitative concentrations of air pollutants can be assessed with other techniques, it is with a TESCAN FEG-SEM that the CHMI can analyze particle size, shape and chemical date. It is exactly this size difference that is significant to the effect on our health. The size and shape determine how deep it can penetrate the respiratory system. Particles less than 10 micrometres are the most dangerous and can even get into the bloodstream. The chemical composition determines the effects on human health. The CHMI uses their TESCAN FEG-SEM only since 2015 and it is not yet common practice and very few research facilities around the world use this technology. This relatively new technology still requires a lot of research to develop a methodology for identifying particles as well as their source. The latter being a particular challenge as the pollution source is usually not unique.