Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New tool debuts for measuring indoor air pollutants

17.03.2011
A promising new approach for checking the accuracy of measurements of hazardous indoor air pollutants may soon be ready for prime time, report researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Virginia Tech.* The measurement tool, a reference sample for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), would be a boon to testers of indoor air quality and to manufacturers of paints, rugs, cleaners and other building products.

The researchers put their innovation—thin squares of plastic saturated with vapors of a common solvent—through the paces at four testing laboratories. The prototype test material, made at Virginia Tech, yielded measurement results more accurate than those previously achieved in more costly and time-consuming interlaboratory studies using less standardized materials.

The researchers suggest that their method might be used to produce a range of reference materials to validate measurements of VOCs emitted from building materials and products. VOCs are used in paints, adhesives, furniture and many other indoor products. Indoor levels of some VOCs average two to five times higher than outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

VOC emissions from building materials and products have been linked to occupant illness, reduced worker productivity, and increased requirements for ventilation/air cleaning, leading to increased energy consumption. As a result, low VOC emitting products are being used more widely in buildings to help achieve a healthy and sustainable indoor environment.

Several programs for testing VOC emissions from building products exist, and manufacturers often test their products to determine that emissions are below limits set in regulations or voluntary standards. However, results often vary significantly.

Past evaluations of test performance have been based on how much measurements reported by individual laboratories differ from the average value for the entire set of laboratories. "These kinds of inter-laboratory comparisons can take months to conduct," explains NIST environmental engineer Cynthia Howard-Reed, lead author of the new report, "and, unfortunately, the results are relative because there is no true reference value for determining just how accurate an emission measurement really is."

That's the gap the researchers are trying to fill. They aim to produce VOC reference materials—standardized test samples that produce known results when analyzed. These benchmark references are commonly used in industry to check the accuracy of important measurement instruments.

In the initial trial, they prepared two batches of their sample material—thin films of polymethyl pentane, a plastic used in gas-permeable packaging, saturated with toluene, a common VOC found in paint and other products. A mathematical model developed by the research team is used to accurately predict rates of emission from the sample over time. The preliminary multi-laboratory tests showed that the prototype reference material is uniform in composition and sufficiently stable and that rates of VOC emissions within and between production batches are consistent.

The researchers conclude that their prototype could reduce inter-laboratory variability in results to less than 10 percent—much better than current methods.

The pilot study also identified several opportunities for improvement, which will be incorporated before an international pilot is conducted later this year. With further progress, the project will be expanded by 2013 to include more types of VOC references that will be produced in larger batches for broader distribution.

* C. Howard-Reed , Z. Liu, J. Benning , S. Cox, D. Samarov, D. Leber, A.T. Hodgson, S. Mason, D. Won and J.C. Little. Diffusion-controlled reference material for volatile organic compound emissions testing: Pilot inter-laboratory study. Building and Environment 46 (2011) 1504-1511.

Mark Bello | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>