doi:10.1038/nindia.2014.37 Published online 22 March 2014
Researchers have developed a sensor that can detect trace amounts of volatile organic gases1 . This sensor will be very useful for monitoring the levels of such gases in indoor environments.
Certain solids or liquids emit volatile organic compounds as vapours. Such compounds are emitted by a wide array of products, including paints, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment (such as copiers and printers) and photographic solutions. Studies have shown that such compounds remain at elevated concentrations long after their use, and can give rise to adverse health effects, such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to the livers, kidneys and the central nervous system.
The researchers developed a simple and effective sensor for monitoring such organic compounds. It contains a sophisticated ion mobility spectrometer with an ultraviolet photoionization source to measure the levels of volatile organic gases.
The researchers tested the efficacy of the sensor in detecting trace concentrations of acetone, hexane and acetone–hexane mixtures. They found that the sensor could measure acetone and hexane levels down to hundreds of parts per billion. Their experiments clearly demonstrated that the sensor could selectively monitor the levels of a specific gas in a mixture of gases.