Sensor System Monitors Environmental Exposure

“We are investigating whether we can go back after an asthma attack and see what was going on environmentally when the attack started,” said Charlene Bayer, a Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) principal research scientist.

The new sensor system measures airborne exposure to formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, temperature, relative humidity and total volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted as gases from products such as paints, cleaning supplies, pesticide formulations, building materials and furnishings, office equipment and craft materials.

In addition to detecting the seven environmental stimuli mentioned above, a special mesh filter collects particles. A pump pulls air through the filter so that the quantity of particles can be measured at the end of the sampling period. The composition of the collected particulate can also be analyzed in the laboratory.

GTRI Research Scientist Robert Hendry calibrated and tested the sensors in a large room-sized chamber that simulates real-world environmental conditions inside buildings. Coupled with sensitive mass spectrometers, the chamber allows the changing indoor air chemistry to be studied in detail.

“With this system we can determine what children are exposed to at home, at school and outside where they play,” said Bayer. “Chances are there are some overreaching compounds that seem to trigger asthma attacks in more children.”; Source: Georgia Institute of Technology