Smoke that we can see is made up of particles in the air. Smoke alarms see these particles and declare that they must be smoke. Having made the smoke delaration, smoke alarms sound the alarm.
Don't Smoke Alarms Detect Smoke?By Douglas Krantz
A smoke alarm isn't really a smoke alarm at all; a smoke alarm is a particles-in-the-air alarm. When a smoke alarm detects particles in the air, it calls the particles smoke, and then sounds the alarm.
Particles-in-the-AirTrue smoke is usually solid particles of unburnt fire fuel and liquid particles of unburnt fire fuel. Gases and other components are also present, but for all practical purposes, a smoke alarm only detects the particles.
Cooking SmokeWhen cooking, small particles (sometimes the particles are so small they can't even be seen) can be detected. The smoke alarm (which really isn't very smart) can't tell these particles from the smoke of a grease fire. For people's safety, the smoke alarm sounds the alarm.
Shower SteamWhen a hot shower is taken, the steam particles in the air look to the smoke alarm like any other particles in the air. For people's safety, the smoke alarm sounds the alarm.
SmokeWhen there's a fire, the smoke from the fire finds its way to the smoke alarm. At this point, the smoke alarm detects particles in the air. For people's safety, the smoke alarm sounds the alarm.
Particles in the AirSmoke alarms are there for people's safety. However, like anything else, smoke alarms have limits to what it can do. Smoke alarms can't tell the composition of particles, and they can't tell what caused the particles to be in the air in the first place.
Smoke alarms can only tell that there are particles in the air, and then sound the alarm.
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