Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Environmental Test Facility Helps Manufacturers Improve Indoor Air Quality

Date:
March 17, 2006
Source:
Georgia Institute of Technology
Summary:
Using a new room-sized environmental test chamber, more than a dozen smaller chambers and a mass spectrometric center able to measure ultra-trace concentrations of airborne chemicals being emitted from products, scientists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are helping manufacturers of furnishings, paints and building materials meet meet new international requirements for minimizing emissions.

Laboratory Technician Danielle Bayer prepares a mannequin for testing in GTRI’s room-sized environmental test chamber. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek)

As scientists learn more about the potentially harmful effects of indoor air pollution, nations around the world are imposing increasingly strict regulations on chemical emissions from furnishings, paints and building materials.

Using a new room-sized environmental test chamber, more than a dozen smaller chambers and a mass spectrometric center able to measure ultra-trace concentrations of airborne chemicals being emitted from products, scientists at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are helping manufacturers meet those international standards to minimize emissions.

"We can help manufacturers address regulatory issues," said Charlene Bayer, principal research scientist in GTRI's Health and Environmental Systems Laboratory. "Because U.S. manufacturers sell their products worldwide, they must meet emission regulations imposed by nations in Europe and Asia. We make the measurements companies need to improve their products."

For example, the testing helps manufacturers of indoor furnishings select components that have lower emissions. It also helps textile and apparel companies choose fabric finishes that both survive cleaning and minimize emissions. And it helps makers of paints and other wall coverings select biocides and other chemical constituents with the least impact on the indoor environment.

Large enough to accommodate humans or animals, the new 27.5 cubic meter environmental chamber will also allow researchers to study broader concerns -- including the impact of low-level indoor air pollutants on productivity and human health.

"There is an emphasis now on developing high-performance schools, and part of that will be to measure how changes in indoor air quality improve the performance of children," explained Bayer. "By studying how emissions from normal furnishings affect children performing classroom tasks, you can estimate what might happen if you reduce the emissions."

Tests involving humans will be carefully designed to avoid exposing subjects to potentially harmful levels. The research will also be done under close medical supervision, with cameras and a special windowed door to monitor subjects inside the chamber.

Beyond helping manufacturers improve their products, the new facility may lead to a better understanding of what compounds cause problems and how indoor pollutants form. There is evidence, Bayer said, that the chemistry inside buildings is more complex than previously thought.

It's known, for instance, that ozone produced outdoors during summer months enters buildings in significant amounts. There, the powerful oxidant may react with volatile organic compounds emitted from indoor furnishings to create a chemical soup that includes compounds not originally present in the furnishings.

"The chances are very good that it's not the emissions we know about that are really bothering people, but rather the compounds that result when the emitted chemicals react with ozone," Bayer said. "That could be quite significant in urban areas like Atlanta that have high levels of ground-level ozone."

The large chamber can simulate real-world environmental conditions inside buildings. Coupled with the sensitive mass spectrometers, that allows those low-level chemical reactions to be studied in detail.

"We really have to look at the interactions between chemicals and the changing indoor air chemistry," Bayer added. "That's something we can now do because we have the room-sized chamber."

Beyond an improved understanding of indoor air quality, GTRI's environmental chambers can also be used to calibrate a broad range of new sensors being developed.

"We can put sensors into a well-controlled environment that simulates real conditions," Bayer said. "We can expose the sensors to carefully-controlled levels of individual compounds, as well as to combinations of compounds."

Also under development is a vest-based instrument for measuring the airborne emissions that can affect children with asthma. By correlating exposures with attacks, the vest will help researchers better understand the factors that lead to asthma problems.

In all, GTRI operates 15 environmental chambers that range in size from just 135 milliliters up to 27.5 cubic meters.

Samples taken from the chambers are analyzed by four mass spectrometers designed for different types of identification. For example, one instrument is used to analyze light gases such as carbon dioxide, which is produced by the respiration of living organisms such as bacterial and fungi. Another system is designed for proteomic and other biomedical research. The instruments can measure as low as femtogram quantities of chemical compounds.

The facility also includes other instruments, including gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer combinations. For testing the efficiency of air filtration systems, Bayer uses a smoking machine that helps simulate a smoke-filled environment. The test facility also analyzes the efficiency of other equipment designed to clean the air.

Beyond the expertise and facilities in GTRI's own labs, Bayer can call on researchers in Georgia Tech's academic colleges -- as well as collaborators at Emory University, Georgia State University and the University of Miami Medical School.

"Combining these capabilities, we can focus on the far-reaching and difficult issues," she said. "The linkage to academic researchers and to these other schools gives us tremendous abilities to study complex issues."



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Georgia Institute of Technology. "New Environmental Test Facility Helps Manufacturers Improve Indoor Air Quality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060312211133.htm>.
Georgia Institute of Technology. (2006, March 17). New Environmental Test Facility Helps Manufacturers Improve Indoor Air Quality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060312211133.htm
Georgia Institute of Technology. "New Environmental Test Facility Helps Manufacturers Improve Indoor Air Quality." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060312211133.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) — Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) — After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) — Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) — British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins