Our current way of living places massive demands on the environment surrounding us. The demands are not just harmful for the environment itself, but also for us, the people living in it. Nanotechnology is being examined as potentially holding the key to detecting air quality problems and then rectifying them.
Detecting Air Pollutants
Knowing the level of air pollution present in the general atmosphere or a specific closed space is of extremely importance with regard to health and safety concerns for the general public and in the workplace. A range of nanotechnologies have been applied to various forms of sensing and detecting. The nanotechnologies vary from biology based detectors through to electronic, microfluidic and MEMS based systems. The result is that we are now albe to detect extraordinarily small concentrations of pollutants such as CO, NO, NO2 and O3. Typical levels detectable are now in the vicinity of 3 parts per million.
Carbon dioxide from coal and gas fired electric power plants is a major global contributor to greenhouse gases that cause climate change. A solution to removing the carbon dioxide from exhaust emissions quite literally may lie with nanotechnology. Removing, or scrubbing, the CO2 from exhaust gases may be as straight forward as turning the CO2 into carbon nanotubes.
Still an experimental technique, indications are that the power required to do this is only around 0.4% of the output power. The nanotubes produced are low quality multiwall carbon nanotubes that could be either disposed of in specialist landfill or be used to reinforce heavy engineering projects like roads, runways, bridges, buildings and other concrete based constructions.
Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality is the cause of many respiratory ailments and can induce life threatening reactions in susceptible people such as those with asthma. Compromised air quality in buildings is often due to volatile organic compounds or VOCs.
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs are airborne pollutants that originate from household items like carpets, plastics, paints, solvents, glues, pesticides and cleaning fluids. The very things that make up our homes and workplaces. Some people are more susceptible to VOCs than others but they are known to cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and allergic reactions that can lead to breathing difficulties, nausea, nosebleeds, vomiting, fatigue and dizziness.
VOCs can be removed from indoor air by using manganese oxide nanofibre or nanocrystal catalysts. The manganese oxide material is applied as a coating and can remove volatile organic compounds to the level of parts per billion.