Investigation of the treatability of the primary indoor volatile organic compounds on activated carbon fiber cloths at typical indoor concentrations

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Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a major concern for indoor air pollution because of the impacts on human health. In recent years, interest has increased in the development and design of activated carbon filters for removing VOCs from indoor air. Although extensive information is available on sources, concentrations, and types of indoor VOCs, there is little or no information on the performance of indoor air adsorption systems for removing low concentrations of primary VOCs. Filter designs need to consider various factors such as empty bed contact time, humidity effects, competitive adsorption, and feed concentration variations, whereas adsorption capacities of the indoor VOCs at the indoor concentration levels are important parameters for filter design. A preliminary assessment of the feasibility of using adsorption filters to remove low concentrations of primary VOCs can be performed. This work relates the information (including VOC classes in indoor air, the typical indoor concentrations, and the adsorption isotherms) with the design of a particular adsorbent/adsorbates system. As groundwork for filter design and development, this study selects the primary VOCs in indoor air of residences, schools, and offices in different geographical areas (North America, Europe, and Asia) on the basis of occurrence, concentrations, and health effects. Activated carbon fiber cloths (ACFCs) are chosen as the adsorbents of interest. It is demonstrated that the isotherm of a VOC (e.g., toluene on the ACFC) at typical indoor concentrations - parts per billion by volume (ppbv) level - is different than the isotherm at parts per million by volume (ppmv) levels reported in the publications. The isotherms at the typical indoor concentrations for the selected primary VOCs are estimated using the Dubinin-Radushkevitch equation. The maximum specific throughput for an indoor VOC removal system to remove benzene is calculated as a worst-case scenario. It is shown that VOC adsorption capacity is an important indicator of a filter's lifetime and needs to be studied at the appropriate concentration range. Future work requires better understanding of the realistic VOC concentrations and isotherms in indoor environments to efficiently utilize adsorbents. Copyright 2009 Air & Waste Management Association.

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Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association