BAT shows how to weigh up a puff of smoke

An innovatory method invented by researches at British American Tobacco has made it possible to quantify the dose from cigarette smoke a person is likely exposed to when they take a puff of a cigarette.

British American Tobacco said that the development of this method is an element of current tobacco science study to develop methods to see smoking in support of the development and assessment of potentially safe tobacco products.

BAT Logo

Logo of British American Tobacco

The novel technique was invented by adding two technologies – a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) unit (Vitrocell® Systems GmbH, Germany) and British American Tobacco’s local developed ‘in vitro lung’ exposure chamber (patent publication number WO 03/100417 A1).

Using the joint method, it is possible to directly weigh the amount of smoke particles on a cell.

It has been estimated that by using the new technique each cell is exposed to between 11 and 1300 smoke particles per exposure. This depends on the concentrations of smoke used. At the lowest concentration measured in this research, each cell’s exposure represents 400 femtograms of smoke particles, which have an average diameter of 400 nm, one fiftieth of the diameter of a fine human hair.

Meantime, John McAughey, major scientist at British American Tobacco, said that new methods would permit the measurement of the weight of deposited smoke particles as a real number, making such study more comparable to toxicological research in other areas and the findings easier to share with other industries and scientists.

‘The exposure chamber is an cheap hand-sized plastic device that can be applied to reveal the effect of exposing human airway cell cultures to aerosols, such as cigarette smoke,’ the note said.

QCM comprises a thin quartz disc held between two gold electrodes. It is a sensitive gravimetric balance that uses the piezoelectric effect, connected with all quartz crystals, to weigh very small amounts.

When mass is applied to the crystal, this activates a change in thickness, which changes the frequency at which the crystal oscillates. This change in oscillation frequency can be measured and used to establish mass.

QCMs are used for a wide variety of applications together with monitoring chemicals in polluted waters, the detection of virus nanoparticles and peptide membranes, and occupational environmental monitoring.

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