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Soot Testing, Wildfire Smoke Testing, Smoke Damage

Category Materials Testing Lab
Test Soot

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of complaints relating to the sudden and unexpected appearance of soot-like material observed in homes and commercial buildings.  These stains may form on carpets, walls, plastic objects and other materials, and have been noted around ventilation grilles and electrical outlets.  The culprit for this “ghosting” phenomenon is the formation of Black Carbon.   EMSL Analytical, Inc. has extensive experience in confirming the presence and identifying the source of Black Carbon.


Black Carbon is a fine-grained solid residue that results from incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons.  Common sources of Black Carbon that can cause residential or commercial property damage include candles, fuels such as oil, propane and natural gas used in gas appliances and gas log fireplaces, firewood burned in a fireplace or a wood-burning stove.  Even printer cartridges can produce a manufactured Carbon Black that is nearly identical to Black Carbon (Soot).


Black Carbon particles may appear as individual spherical particles or as grape-like conglomerates.   The diameter of the individual particles generally varies between 10nm to 70nm.  Considering the size and the specific morphology of Black Carbon particulate, the analysis for identification of Black Carbon is best performed by electron microscopy ensuring the appropriate magnification range for imaging.  Transmission Electron Microscopy can easily achieve a magnification of 100,000x, which is more than sufficient to observe individual particles.  Even the best light microscopes can only achieve 1,000x magnification.  At a magnification of 1000x observations are limited to particles no smaller than 300nm.  This is roughly the size of the smallest bacteria.  Black Carbon particles are generally one order of magnitude smaller.


However, the majority of nano-size particles, such as iron oxides, titanium dioxide or aluminum oxide have the same morphology.  For example, titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a common interference due to its spherical morphology and its expansive use in food, commercial and pharmaceutical products.  Therefore, the particles elemental composition should also be determined by energy dispersive x-ray analysis to verify if the material sampled is actually Black Carbon.


At EMSL Analytical, Inc. identification of Black Carbon is performed using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) in conjunction with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Analysis (EDX).  Sample collection for airborne Black Carbon should be performed according to the NIOSH 5000 method.  Dust “wipe” sampling can be performed with 1 square inch alcohol wipes such as those used to cleanse your arm before a shot with a hypodermic needle. These can be found at nearly any pharmacy.

Identifying the origin of combustion product formation can help to eliminate potential sources.  At EMSL Analytical, Inc., the identification of the source of Black Carbon is performed using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) in conjunction with Attenuated Total Reflection - Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS).  The analysis is based upon the different particle sizes and the presence of selected functional groups in the samples that distinguish sources such as paraffin residue from candles or fuel oil from oil heaters.


Laboratories performing Soot / Carbon Black Analysis

Cinnaminson, NJ

San Leandro, CA

South Pasadena, CA

Ann Arbor, MI - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-4Atlanta, GA - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-1Baton Rouge, LA - NVLAP Lab Code 200375-0Beltsville, MD - NVLAP Lab Code 200293-0Boston, MA - NVLAP Lab Code 101147-0Buffalo, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 200056-0Calgary, Alberta - NVLAP Lab Code 500100-0Carle Place, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-10Charlotte, NC - NVLAP Lab Code 200841-0Chicago, IL - NVLAP Lab Code 200399-0Corporate - Cinnaminson, NJ - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-0Dallas, TX - NVLAP Lab Code 600111-0Denver, CO - NVLAP Lab Code 200828-0EMSL Canada - Montreal -- Quebec - NVLAP Lab Code 201052-0EMSL Canada -- Toronto - NVLAP Lab Code 200877-0EMSL Canada Inc. -- Ottawa - NVLAP Lab Code 201040-0Fort Lauderdale - NVLAP Lab Code 500085-0Houston, TX - NVLAP Lab Code 102106-0Huntington Beach, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 101384-0Indianapolis, IN - NVLAP Lab Code 200188-0Inland Empire, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 600239-0Kernersville, NC - NVLAP Lab Code 102104-0Las Vegas, NV - NVLAP Lab Code 600140-0Miami, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 200204-0Minneapolis, MN - NVLAP Lab Code 200019-0New York, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-9Orlando, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 101151-0Pasadena, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 200232-0Phoenix, AZ - NVLAP Lab Code 200811-0Piscataway, NJ - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-2Plymouth Meeting, PA - NVLAP Lab Code 200699-0Raleigh, NC - NVLAP Lab Code 200671-0Rochester, NY - NVLAP Lab Code 600183-0S. Portland, ME - NVLAP Lab Code 500094-0Salem, NH - NVLAP Lab Code 201051-0San Diego, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 200855-0San Leandro, CA - NVLAP Lab Code 101048-3Seattle, WA - NVLAP Lab Code 200613-0St. Louis, MO - NVLAP Lab Code 200742-0Tampa, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 600215-0Vancouver, BC - NVLAP Lab Code 201068-0Wallingford, CT - NVLAP Lab Code 200700-0West Palm Beach, FL - NVLAP Lab Code 600206-0Weymouth, MA - NVLAP Lab Code 600217-0
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