Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sensor system improves indoor air quality while making building ventilation more energy efficient

04.02.2014
A research consortium being coordinated at Saarland University is developing a novel sensor system for monitoring airborne contaminants that will provide high-quality indoor air without the energy losses typically associated with ventilation.

Energy consumption levels can be halved as a result. Professor Andreas Schütze is an expert in gas sensor technology at Saarland University and is the coordinator of the European research project ‘SENSIndoor’.


Andreas Schütze (pictured right): His sensor systems find use in a wide range of applications, from detecting chemicals outgassing from individual products to monitoring the quality of indoor air.

Foto: dasbilderwerk

Researchers plan to develop a cost-effective, intelligent ventilation system that will automatically supply fresh air to rooms and indoor spaces as and when needed.

The gas sensors detect air contamination due to the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Using the measurement data and information on when and how rooms are used, the system will be able to adjust the intensity and duration of ventilation. The project is being supported by the EU through a grant worth €3.4 million.

If windows are kept closed, indoor air can become a very unhealthy mix of chemicals, such as formaldehyde from furniture, solvents from carpet adhesives, chemical vapours from cleaning agents, benzene, xylene, and numerous others. This is particularly true when buildings have been well insulated and sealed to reduce energy costs. But what is good in terms of heat loss and energy efficiency, may not be so good for the health of those who live and work there.

Many volatile organic compounds are carcinogens and represent a health hazard particularly to children and older people. ‘If rooms are properly ventilated health hazards can be avoided. Unfortunately, our noses are usually unable to detect the presence of such contaminants, even when they are present at levels hazardous to health,’ explains project coordinator Andreas Schütze. Too much ventilation also results in high levels of heat loss, which has a negative cumulative effect on energy costs and the environment.

‘The sensor system that we are currently developing will maintain high-quality indoor air with the lowest possible contaminant levels while ensuring energy efficiency by means of automatic, customized ventilation,’ explains Professor Schütze. ‘The health hazards associated with high contaminant concentrations can therefore be avoided while at the same time reducing energy consumption in buildings by about fifty percent, which is highly significant in terms of existing carbon emission targets,’ says Schütze.

These highly sensitive artificial sense organs can reliably detect gases of all kinds, from toxic carbon monoxide to carcinogenic organic compounds, and can determine their concentrations quantitatively. Even the smallest quantities of trace gases do not go undetected by the sensors. The novel metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) gas sensors and so-called gas-sensitive field-effect sensors, which Schütze has been developing in collaboration with partners in Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, are able to detect air contaminants such as formaldehyde, benzene or xylene at concentrations well below one in a million.

However, in order to be used for the proposed application, the sensitivity of the monitoring system will need to be improved even further. The sensor system therefore collects molecules in the air over a known period of time and then quantitatively measures the amounts collected – an approach which significantly reduces the system’s detection threshold.

‘If the concentration of a particular molecule is above a specified limit, fresh air is automatically introduced to modify the composition of the air and re-establish good air quality. If all of the rooms in a building are equipped with our sensors and if the sensors are connected to an intelligent ventilation control unit, the system can ventilate each room in a way that has been optimized for the specific use to which that room is put.

For example, if there is a problem with contaminants in the indoor air of a school building, classroom ventilation can be adapted to fit in with teaching periods and break times,’ explains Schütze. The researchers within the SENSIndoor project will therefore be studying and evaluating a variety of ventilation scenarios in schools, office buildings, homes and residential buildings. The objective is to learn more about ventilation patterns and requirements in these buildings so that the system can provide optimized ventilation under any given conditions.

Research institutions and industrial partners from Sweden (Linköping University and Sensic AB), Finland (University of Oulu and Picodeon LTD OY), Switzerland (SGX Sensortech SA), France (SARL Nanosense) and Germany (Saarland University, Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology, 3S GmbH and Eurice GmbH) will be working together within the SENSIndoor project.

The project has received funding totalling €4.6 million over a period of three years, of which €3.4 million has come from the EU as part of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Approximately €1 million will be used to fund project research carried out in Saarland.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Andreas Schütze, Measurement Technology Lab, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany: Tel. +49 (0)681 302-4663, E-mail: schuetze@lmt.uni-saarland.de

Press photographs are available at http://www.uni-saarland.de/pressefotos and can be used at no charge.

Note for radio journalists: Studio-quality telephone interviews can be conducted using broadcast audio IP codec technology (IP direct dial or via the ARD node 106813020001). Contact: Press and Public Relations Office +49 (0)681302-2601, or -64091.

Claudia Ehrlich | Universität des Saarlandes
Further information:
http://www.uni-saarland.de
http://www.lmt.uni-saarland.de/index.php

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor
22.02.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology

nachricht Positrons as a new tool for lithium ion battery research: Holes in the electrode
22.02.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>