Nano-sized carbon dusts are suspected of having negative effects on human health. An exact characterization of such particles is necessary to understand possible toxic effects, i.e. in the lung. Observed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the carbon dusts are a composite of very small primary particles and larger agglomerates of these. A differentiation of the primary particles and agglomerates according to source is not possible by TEM, however, thermogravimetry investigations in synthetic air atmosphere are helpful. Standardized carbon black and graphite show a single-step oxidation behaviour, whereas ethene soot and diesel soot, for example, show more complex-reaction mechanisms. The results of ethene soot exemplarily demonstrate the oxidation mechanism. In addition to the oxidation reaction to carbon dioxide, a sintering process takes place. To confirm the oxidation mechanism, thermal behaviour of ethene soot has been simulated by kinetic modulation using a three-step reaction mechanism of n-th order. The reaction order indicates a complex mechanism for the first-reaction step. For the second and third-reaction step, a phase boundary mechanism could be suggested.
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