November 29, 2023

New Breakthrough in Air Purification Technology Enables Customized Removal of Toxic Gases

A team of researchers from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has developed a new technology that allows for the efficient removal of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from indoor air. VOCs are commonly found in everyday products such as paints, adhesives, furniture, cosmetics, and deodorants. While these products make our lives easier, constant exposure to VOCs can lead to serious health issues including respiratory illness, headaches, dermatitis, and even cancer.

While natural ventilation is the most effective way to reduce VOCs in indoor air, it may not always be possible due to extreme outdoor conditions such as high levels of fine dust, heat waves, or extreme cold. As a result, air purifiers have become a popular method of maintaining indoor air quality.

Traditionally, air purifiers use activated carbon to adsorb VOCs. However, activated carbon is only effective at removing non-polar substances such as toluene and benzene, but struggles to remove polar substances like ketones and aldehydes.

The KIST research team, led by Dr. Jiwon Lee and Dr. Youngtak Oh from the Center for Sustainable Environment Research, has developed a new adsorbent technology that can efficiently remove amphiphilic VOCs. These VOCs have both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties and are difficult to remove using existing activated carbon technology.

The team synthesized a graphene-iron oxide heterostructure by controlling the surface oxidation of graphite and iron. This resulted in a higher adsorption capacity for amphiphilic VOCs due to the increased presence of oxygen functional groups and iron oxide on the surface of the adsorbent. The unique adsorbent demonstrated up to 15 times better adsorption efficiency for amphiphilic VOCs compared to conventional activated carbon adsorbents.

The researchers also discovered that precise control over the oxygen functional groups and iron oxides on the adsorbent surface allows for flexibility in optimizing the surface properties to effectively remove specific pollutants. Through testing with four different ketones, they found a correlation between the length of carbon chains and the adsorption efficiency. By optimizing the content of oxygen functional groups and iron oxides, they were able to achieve maximum removal efficiency for the ketones.

Furthermore, the team analyzed the electron transfer phenomenon between the adsorbent and VOC molecules at the sub-nanometer level. For the first time, they identified a link between the geometric shape of the pollutant and its adsorption trend. This discovery paves the way for the development of customized detection and control technologies for various air pollutants.

Dr. Jiwon Lee stated, “Unlike previous studies that focused solely on improving adsorption performance and regeneration efficiency, we have succeeded in developing a breakthrough material that surpasses the limitations of existing adsorbents. This new technology utilizes accessible materials such as graphite and iron, which have high commercialization potential.”

The development of this new adsorbent technology offers promise in providing customized air purification solutions for removing toxic gases from indoor environments. It has the potential to significantly improve indoor air quality and protect individuals from the harmful health effects associated with VOC exposure.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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