"Surgical smoke" is an airborne by-product of electrosurgery comprised of vapour and suspended particles. Although concerns exist that exposure may be harmful, there is a poor understanding of the smoke in terms of particle size, morphology, composition and biological viability. Notably, it is not known how the biological tissue source and cutting method influence the smoke. The objective of this study was to develop a collection method for airborne by-product from surgical cutting. This would enable comprehensive analyses of the particulate burden, composition and biological viability. The method was applied to compare the electrosurgical smoke generated (in the absence of any evacuation mechanism) with the aerosolized/airborne by-products generated by ultrasonic and high-speed cutting, from bone and liver tissue cutting. We report a wide range of particle sizes (0.93-806.31 mu m for bone, 0.05-1040.43 mu m for liver) with 50% of the particles being <2.72 mu m (similar to PM2.5) and 90% being <10 mu m (PM10). EDX and biochemical analysis reveal components of biological cells and cellular metabolic activity in particulate from liver tissue cut by electrosurgery and ultrasonic cutting. We show for the first time however that bone saws and ultrasonic cutting do not liberate viable cells from bone.