Title page for ETD etd-04302012-151649

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Liu, Zhe
Author's Email Address liuzhe@vt.edu
URN etd-04302012-151649
Title Developing Reference Materials for VOC, Formaldehyde and SVOC Emissions Testing
Degree PhD
Department Civil Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Little, John C. Committee Chair
Marand, Eva Committee Member
Marr, Linsey C. Committee Member
Vikesland, Peter J. Committee Member
  • formaldehyde
  • volatile organic compounds
  • emissions
  • reference material
  • semi-volatile organic compounds
Date of Defense 2012-04-24
Availability unrestricted
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) constitute important classes of indoor contaminants. Emissions of VOCs and SVOCs from myriad building materials and consumer products cause high indoor concentrations with health risks that may be orders-of-magnitude greater than outdoors. The need to control VOC and SVOC emissions from interior materials and thereby reduce indoor concentrations is made more urgent by the prevailing drive for air-tight, energy efficient buildings. To develop low-emission products, emission rates are usually measured in emission chambers. However, there are three significant problems associated with chamber tests: (1) VOC emissions testing procedures of individual laboratories are frequently subject to error and uncertainty; (2) SVOC emissions testing in chambers is extremely difficult and time-consuming, and also subject to error and uncertainty; and (3) chamber tests provide little insight into the mechanisms controlling emissions.

This research aimed to solve these problems by developing reference materials for VOC and SVOC emissions testing. Formaldehyde was studied separately from other VOCs because of its unusual properties. Emission mechanisms, and the related modeling approaches for predicting emissions, were investigated by reviewing the literature and performing chamber studies. Based on the internally controlled VOC and formaldehyde emission mechanisms, diffusion-controlled reference materials, which mimic real sources, were created for VOCs and formaldehyde. Approaches for developing externally controlled reference materials for SVOC emissions testing were also explored. Appropriate mechanistic models can predict the true emission rates of the reference materials and therefore provide reference values to validate emissions testing results and certify procedures of individual laboratories. The potential of a solid phase microextraction (SPME) method was also evaluated and found to be a promising technique that can be used in chamber tests to simplify and improve sampling and analytical procedures.

This research elucidates the mass-transfer mechanisms of VOC and SVOC emissions and provides practical approaches for developing reference materials for emissions testing. The fundamental understanding and methodological advances will enhance indoor air quality science, improve the emissions testing industry, and provide a sound basis on which to develop standards and regulations.

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