Material Analysis and Indoor Chemistry

Research focus

Test chambers and analytics

 

The air quality in interior spaces depends on the emissions from the objects contained therein and the applied building materials. With the help of test chambers, we investigate the emissions from building products, small and large electrical appliances, interior fixtures and furnishings as well as consumer products. For this purpose, we also develop specific testing procedures for particular application scenarios in order to identify and evaluate impurities in the room air.

With our research, we contribute to the enabling not only of the definition of appropriate threshold values ​​for harmful emissions in interior spaces but also of the testing of products concerning their compliance. Furthermore, the additional requirements of voluntary product labels can also be specified and adhered to with our help. A further focus is placed upon the identification of off-odors. By combining test chamber measurements and other technical procedures with sensory measurements, we are able to detect the sources of odor nuisance and thereby contribute additionally to the manufacturer’s process and product optimization. 

 

 

© Photo Fraunhofer WKI | Manuela Lingnau

Large test chamber

© Photo Marek Kruszewski

Laboratory employee at the gas chromatograph

For the measurement of material emissions such as formaldehyde or volatile organic compounds (VOC), we have state-of-the-art technical equipment. Thanks to our wide range of test chamber sizes - from 20 liters to 48 cubic meters, with diverse intermediate graduations - we are able to test practically all products and materials intended for interior usage. For the analysis of air samples by means of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, we have access to 15 devices with which we can swiftly process even large assignments. A further customer benefit is offered by our online analytics, which provide prompt results. As an example: Whilst testing a coating system, we are able to record the emissions during the curing process with a higher resolution.

We utilize our many years of experience in emission and odor testing to optimize existing test methods and to develop new methods. Our focus is placed upon:

 

Gas chromatography/olfactometry

Whilst established methods for determining the concentration of many air pollutants now exist, a quantitative determination of odors still remains difficult. With the sensitive detector "Nose", substances can be identified which other analytical methods, due to their poor detection sensitivity, would not be able to detect. We combine instrumental analytics (gas chromatography) with sensory measurements (olfactometry) in order to identify sources of odor nuisances and off-odor substances.

Very volatile organic compounds (VVOC)

In diverse materials and objects, substances are applied which contain very volatile organic compounds (VVOC). As an example, leather sofas often contain volatile acids such as formic acid. VVOC can, depending on the dosage and the individual predisposition, cause headaches, skin irritations, nausea, and fatigue in humans. As the compounds are very volatile, the main problem is the sampling with conventional absorbents (sorbents). We develop efficient methods for the sampling and analysis of VVOC.

 

Reactive substances

Products such as air purifiers, printers or photocatalytically-active building materials can release partially reactive substances such as ozone or nitrogen oxides, which can lead to a multitude of negative effects in the surrounding area. The testing of products for reactive substances is a particular challenge, as the test object is usually complex in structure and does not permit simple conclusions. Through our research, we decipher the mechanisms of the release of reactive substances.