New GC-MS system for automated quantitative pollutant detection

3 June 2021

The increasing use of new building materials and technologies means there is a lot we don’t know about pollutants in our built environment and their impact on our health. Materials, along with peoples’ behaviour and events such as building fires, affect indoor air quality (IAQ).

To understand how we can reduce health risks associated with poor IAQ, we first need to understand what pollutants people are being exposed to in their homes, schools and workplaces. A new analytical system for pollutant detection will help BRANZ do this.

The system is made up of an automated thermal desorber (ATD) coupled with a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer (GC-MS). The ATD component can be used to concentrate gas samples so that very low concentrations of pollutants can be characterised by the GC-MS. The GC-MS can separate mixtures of compounds and identify individual chemicals, as well as measure their concentrations.

As well as supporting BRANZ IAQ research, the new suite will support our research on building material performance. Materials can change over time as they are exposed to the sun, wind and environmental contaminants. Exposure to the elements can reduce the integrity of the material and change its chemical make-up. With the new ATD-GCMS system, we’ll be able to identify these changes and assess the impact they may have on a material’s performance.

Current IAQ projects that will make use of the new analytical system include:

  • Indoor pollutants in modern homes (BRANZ)
  • Measuring indoor pollutant levels in buildings exposed to fire (BRANZ)