Caught In The Act: Volatile Organic Compounds


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. These VOCs may cause harmful health effects, and have been linked to everything from headaches to cancer. VOCs are commonly emitted from everyday items such as carpets, vinyl floors, upholstery fabrics, and even cosmetics. Yet it has remained difficult to monitor VOCs in the environment because air and water samples have to be captured, and sent off to a lab for analysis. But new research at the Georgia Institute of Technology may pave the way for a miniature sensor that can measure VOCs right in your living room.

"With benzene and other VOCs high on the EPA priority pollutant list, it would be a major advantage to get a rapid reading of VOC concentrations directly in the field," said Boris Mizaikoff, an associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of its Applied Sensors Laboratory.

Each disk-shaped sensor (pictured) can be coated with a different surface that can detect a unique VOC. This enables several microchips to investigate a wide range of pollution rapidly in one location.

"When pollutant chemicals get adsorbed to the surface of the sensor, a frequency change of the vibrating microbalance provides a measure of the associated mass change," said Oliver Brand, associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Monitors such as these could provide a new level of quality assurance from manufacturers claiming to be green, but lying through their teeth. For more information on avoiding VOC exposure check out our guides for How to Go Green, that delve into the matter in more detail, especially concerning furniture.
:: Eureka Alert