Article Date: 03/07/2014

Researchers Strive to Create a Sensor System that Could Help Ensure High-Quality Indoor Air and Improve Energy Efficiency

By Steve Rizer


It sounds too good to be true: a new sensor system that can help facilitate both high-quality air within buildings and about a 50 percent reduction in the amount of energy those structures use. This is exactly what a research consortium coordinated at Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, Germany, is working toward via the new “SENSIndoor” project. 


The three-year SENSIndoor project aims to develop novel nanotechnology-based intelligent sensor systems for selective monitoring of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for demand-controlled ventilation in indoor environments, according to the consortium. The group has been developing metal oxide semiconductor gas sensors and gas-sensitive field-effect sensors for detecting specific VOC contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, at levels below one in a million. Ideally, the sensor technology would be connected to a building control system for carrying out a desired ventilation strategy.


“The sensor system that we are currently developing will maintain high-quality indoor air with the lowest possible contaminant levels while ensuring energy efficiency by means of automatic, customized ventilation,” project coordinator Andreas Schütze predicted. “The health hazards associated with high contaminant concentrations can therefore be avoided while at the same time reducing energy consumption in buildings by about 50 percent.”


The project, which the European Union has funded at €3.4 million (US$4.678 million), began in January and is scheduled to end in late 2016. “A couple of years” after the project concludes, the endeavor’s industrial partners hope to be able to offer commercial systems of this kind, although it has yet to be determined which types of structures are the most suitable candidates for the technology, Schütze told ConstructionPro Week (CPW). 


And once the technology is introduced into the marketplace, what might be its price?


“This is still open and, of course, depends on the technology developed, where we don’t know the cost yet,” Schütze said. “We hope that the systems would be on the order of hundreds of dollars … and at the lower end of that scale.”


The ConstructionPro Network version of this article includes a transcript of CPW’s interview with Schütze as well as coverage of last month’s Federal Interagency Committee on Indoor Air Quality meeting.



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