How Everything Works
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Question 217

If one were to use an electrostatic precipitator in a house full of smokers, would the smell from the cigarettes disappear as well? Why or why not? Isn't the smell/odor contained in the molecules and the molecules are contained in the smoke particles, thus removing the odor from the room?
I'm not sure what fraction of the odor of cigarette smoke is associated with the particles of smoke. An electrostatic precipitator can certainly remove most of the particles and with them, at least a good fraction of the smell. But I suspect that some of the odor is in individual molecules that are less likely to be removed from the air. They are best removed by adsorbing them (sticking them) to a surface, such as the vast surface on granules of activated charcoal. Such granules have pores that allow the molecules to touch lots of internal surface and stick there.

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