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High levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and extremes of Relative Humidity (RH) commonly reduce indoor air quality with associated negative effects on human health and wellbeing. Interior materials are known to be one of the main contributors to poor indoor air quality. Notwithstanding, they can also act as a sink for airborne pollutants and excess moisture through adsorption. In this paper, we evaluate the ability of Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) modified with walnut shell to regulate RH, toluene, limonene, dodecane and formaldehyde. The physicochemical properties, including molecular size/shape, vapour pressure, polarity and boiling point of VOCs allowed them to represent a range of pollutants. Adsorption and desorption behaviour of MDF containing up to 15% walnut shell was evaluated in 2-L environmental chambers under dynamic conditions at 23 °C and 50% RH. The porous microstructure of the MDF and walnut shell and their chemical composition were analysed using SEM, XRD and FTIR. Compared to a control panel, walnut shell additions showed an improved ability to remove VOCs and formaldehyde from the indoor air and buffer humidity. Of particular significance was the irreversible sink effect of formaldehyde and dodecane. This was attributed to the porous surface of walnut shell increasing the specific surface area of the panel and thus its adsorption capacity. The improved capacity of buffer humidity also increased the ability to adsorb water soluble VOCs such as formaldehyde. This research provides for the first time significant evidence that walnut shell modified MDF can improve indoor air quality.
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- Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering - Senior Lecturer
- BRE Centre in Innovative Construction Materials (BRE CICM)
Person: Research & Teaching