Researchers map pollutant compounds from air samples to create a sound spectrum, effectively hearing pollution in 'cleaner' and 'dirtier' California locations.

We know that pollution continues takes a toll on our health, environment and ecosystem, and while we can see effects such as smog, most of our sensory perception cannot grapple with or understand the pollutants in our immediate surroundings. Following this cue, researchers Aaron Reuben and Gabriel Isaacman of Yale Center for Environmental Policy and University of California – Berkeley, respectively, have created soundscapes of locations in California.

A soundscape is designed by taking air samples and first, using gas chromotograpy to separate the thousands of compounds in the air. Then, using mass spectometry, they plotted the chemicals based on structure. In more general terms, Reuben and Isaacman categorized the compounds and mapped them on a spectrum based on a ratio of mass-to-charge. By assigning tones to the compounds, they were able to ‘hear the pollution.'

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