Science, Tech, Math › Science Smoke Chemistry and Chemical Composition Chemical Composition of Smoke Share Flipboard Email Print Nancy Habbas/EyeEm/Getty Images Science Chemistry Physical Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated May 03, 2018 Smoke is something that we will deal with all throughout our lives, in everyday situations as well as in emergencies. But not all smoke is the same -- in fact, the smoke will vary depending upon what is being burned. So then what, exactly, is smoke made of? Smoke consists of gasses and airborne particles produced as a result of combustion or burning. The specific chemicals depend on the fuel used to produce the fire. Here is a look as some of the principal chemicals produced from wood smoke. Keep in mind, there are thousands of chemicals in smoke so the chemical composition of smoke is extremely complex. Chemicals in Smoke In addition to the chemicals listed in the table, wood smoke also contains a large amount of unreacted air, carbon dioxide, and water. It contains a variable amount of mold spores. VOCs are volatile organic compounds. Aldehydes found in wood smoke include formaldehyde, acrolein, propionaldehyde, butyraldehyde, acetaldehyde, and furfural. Alkyl benzenes found in wood smoke include toluene. Oxygenated monoaromatics include guaiacol, phenol, syringol and catechol. Numerous PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are found in smoke. Many trace elements are released. Reference: 1993 EPA Report, A Summary of the Emissions Characterization and Noncancer Respiratory Effects of Wood Smoke, EPA-453/R-93-036 Chemical Composition of Wood Smoke Chemical g/kg Wood carbon monoxide 80-370 methane 14-25 VOCs* (C2-C7) 7-27 aldehydes 0.6-5.4 substituted furans 0.15-1.7 benzene 0.6-4.0 alkyl benzenes 1-6 acetic acid 1.8-2.4 formic acid 0.06-0.08 nitrogen oxides 0.2-0.9 sulfur dioxide 0.16-0.24 methyl chloride 0.01-0.04 napthalene 0.24-1.6 substituted napthalenes 0.3-2.1 oxygenated monoaromatics 1-7 total particle mass 7-30 particulate organic carbon 2-20 oxygenated PAHs 0.15-1 Individual PAHs 10-5-10-2 chlorinated dioxins 1x10-5-4x10-5 normal alkanes (C24-C30) 1x10-3-6x10-3 sodium 3x10-3-2.8x10-2 magnesium 2x10-4-3x10-3 aluminum 1x10-4-2.4x10-2 silicon 3x10-4-3.1x10-2 sulfur 1x10-3-2.9x10-2 chlorine 7x10-4-2.1x10-2 potassium 3x10-3-8.6x10-2 calcium 9x10-4-1.8x10-2 titanium 4x10-5-3x10-3 vanadium 2x10-5-4x10-3 chromium 2x10-5-3x10-3 manganese 7x10-5-4x10-3 iron 3x10-4-5x10-3 nickel 1x10-6-1x10-3 copper 2x10-4-9x10-4 zinc 7x10-4-8x10-3 bromine 7x10-5-9x10-4 lead 1x10-4-3x10-3 What Is in Your Urine? Take a Look at the Chemical Composition What State of Matter Is Fire or Flame? Why Fire Is Hot (and How Hot It Is) Combustion: Definition and Equation What Is the Chemical Composition of Blood? Bituminous Coal Characteristics and Applications in Energy Examples of Chemical Reactions Taking Place Around You Every Day What Is the Difference Between Steam and Smoke? What Is Fire Made Of? Here's the Chemical Composition Non-Toxic Colored Smoke Bombs What Is a Combustion Reaction? What Is a Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbon? What Is Air Pollution? What Is Petroleum Made Of? Chemical Composition What Is a Fart Made Of? What Are the 4 Spheres of the Earth?