Researchers have developed a device that can measure a variety of chemicals that make up air pollution inside homes and offices.
Pollution is not just an outdoor thing, but an indoor problem as well. Managing indoor air quality involves more than just using the range hood over your gas stove, especially when your space is sealed tight for winter. Until now, there has been no easy way to measure indoor air quality given the size and complexity of the equipment—it would likely fill a single car garage and need several scientists to operate it.
Researchers at York University have designed an instrument that could assess pollution levels inside homes and businesses. The total reactive nitrogen (tNr) instrument uses an oven to measure a variety of chemicals that make up indoor air pollution and is the size of a small bookcase on wheels. In the future, it could be loaded onto a truck and navigated through the doorways of homes and businesses to measure reactive nitrogen species in the air in a kitchen, bedroom or basement by existing professionals with similar training to energy auditors.
Cleaning, building materials and even human breath and skin emissions can be other significant sources of indoor air pollution. Even using cleaning staples, such as hydrogen peroxide and bleach, can create high emissions and lead to significantly worse air quality, says the researchers.
The purpose of this instrument is to target emissions that come from cooking and cleaning and have a huge impact on our indoor air quality. The researchers tested the tNr instrument in a commercial kitchen, known for its complex indoor environment with rapidly changing levels of pollutants. Compared to the more passive method for testing indoor air pollution, this method was able to detect about 82% of reactive nitrogen species.
Although not immediately available for use, the idea is that the instrument could provide people and businesses with a good understanding of their levels of indoor pollution so they can take steps to address it.
Reference : Leigh R. Crilley et al, Emerging investigator series: an instrument to measure and speciate the total reactive nitrogen budget indoors: description and field measurements, Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (2023). DOI: 10.1039/D2EM00446A