Elhuyar Fundazioa - Basque Research

Elhuyar Fundazioa - Basque Research

Miniaturized sensors that control indoor pollution


The indoor building environments that we live and work in contain several contaminants that threaten the quality of the air that we breathe. Compounds like benzene and formaldehyde, which come from cleaning products, cosmetics, varnishes and paint, float in our indoor environment, along other polluting agents that tend to come in from outside (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides). These compounds are highly toxic in very low concentrations and may even cause cancer.

Within this context, the five European countries (UK, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Spain) that participated in the INTASENSE project (www.intasense.eu) developed an inexpensive and compact system that measures indoor air quality. The study, financed by the Energy Efficient Buildings (EeB) Private Public Partnership, also addressed the commercial aspects of the system, such as the future manufacture and market competitiveness of the device. The project's partners are companies, universities and research centres, each one contributing their vision and knowledge in order to successfully meet the project's objectives.

CEIT-IK4, for its part, developed the conductometric sensors that detect the toxic compounds. The devices have a very low manufacturing cost, enabling INTASENSE to meet one of its primary goals: an inexpensive system that can be installed in all the rooms of a building. The low cost sensors monitor toxic gas and vapour levels and the amount of particulate matter suspended in the environment. Three sensors in total were developed, and their joint signal is used as a tiny “electronic nose” to reliably measure these toxic compounds.

The signal can be used independently as an indicator of air quality, or it can be connected to the air conditioning system in order to create an intelligent ventilation system that takes the characteristics of the air quality into account. The sensors can also be connected to the system wirelessly, allowing centralised control of all a building's rooms via the sensor network.

The project was praised for its exemplary success at the annual meeting of the Energy Efficient Buildings group, which was held in Brussels last March.

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