Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The dark side of kerosene lamps: High black carbon emissions

The small kerosene lamps that light millions of homes in developing countries have a dark side: black carbon – fine particles of soot released into the atmosphere.

New measurements show that kerosene wick lamps release 20 times more black carbon than previously thought, say researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley. The group published its findings in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Black carbon is a hazard for human health and the environment, affecting air quality both indoors and out. It has a major impact on climate as it absorbs heat and sunlight, warming the air. Although it only lingers in the atmosphere for about two weeks, one kilogram of black carbon can cause as much warming in that short time as 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide circulating in the atmosphere for 100 years, according to study leader Tami Bond, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the U. of I.

“There’s a lot of interest right now in reducing black carbon as a quick way to reduce climate warming – a way to reduce warming in the immediate future, although not a full solution to long-term climate change,” Bond said. “In its short lifetime of two weeks, it adds a lot of energy to the atmosphere. It’s immediate warming now, which is why people are talking about reducing it.”

Previously, emissions researchers did not consider kerosene lamps a large source of black carbon because of the relatively small amount of fuel used in a lamp verses other particle-emitting sources, such as cookstoves or diesel engines. However, the new measurements from the field show that 7 to 9 percent of fuel burned is converted to black carbon – a very high emission factor, making such lamps a major source of black carbon.

In addition, unlike the cocktail of aerosol particles released by cookstoves and cooking fires, the dark curls rising from a kerosene lamp are nearly pure black carbon.

The good news is that there are inexpensive, easy alternatives that could curb black carbon emissions from lamps. For example, LED lamps charged by solar panels are becoming more popular. But an even easier fix would be to place a glass shield around the lamp, which reduces – though does not eliminate – the amount of black carbon particles that escape.

“Unlike cooking stoves, which also are very important health hazards but challenging to replace, people actually like to replace the kerosene lamps,” Bond said. “When it comes to lamps, nobody says, ‘I really like this tin can that I filled with kerosene.’ It’s a plausible, inexpensive way to reduce climate warming immediately, which is something we haven’t really had in the black carbon field before.”

The study authors hope that, with the new data in hand, agencies working in developing countries will implement lamp-replacement initiatives to develop and distribute affordable alternatives.

"Getting rid of kerosene lamps may seem like a small, inconsequential step to take,” said study lead author Nicholas Lam, a UC Berkeley graduate student, “but when considering the collective impact of hundreds of millions of households, it's a simple move that affects the planet."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Environmental Protection Agency supported this research.

Editor’s notes: To reach Tami Bond, call 217-244-5277; email The paper, “Household Light Makes Global Heat: High Black Carbon Emissions From Kerosene Wick Lamps,” is available online.

Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>