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How can we effectively remove indoor formaldehyde?

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Deru Xu
Deru Xu Oct 13, 2020
How can we more effectively remove indoor formaldehyde?

New house decoration or purchase of new furniture may cause indoor formaldehyde to exceed the prescribed safey levels and that affect us in four different ways:

  1. Stimulating effect. When formaldehyde is inhaled too much, severe irritation and edema of the respiratory tract occurs, causing eye irritation, headache, nasal congestion, and nasal pain.
  2. Sensitization. Frequent inhalation of a small amount of formaldehyde can cause chronic poisoning, causing mucosal hyperemia, skin irritation, allergic dermatitis, keratosis and fragility, and fingertip pain in the nail bed.
  3. Mutagenicity. Excessive inhalation of formaldehyde can cause nasopharyngeal tumors, as well as leukemia and lymphoma.
  4. The prominent manifestations are headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, chest tightness, eye pain, sore throat, anorexia, palpitations, insomnia, weight loss, memory loss, and autonomic dysfunction.
The above hazards have a greater impact on people with weak physical fitness, especially children and the elderly who have weaker immune systems. After they inhale excessive formaldehyde, they endanger their health. Therefore, how can we more effectively remove indoor formaldehyde?
Creative contributions

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Oct 13, 2020
This is a laboratory technique for disinfection. Nevertheless, it can be scaled to the cleaning business.
Using UV-C light to destabilize bonds of some organic molecules and hence breaking them, repeated cycles of long term UVGI could be used to get rid of the formaldehyde over time. However, there is high risk upon exposure. Hence,robust safety measures needed for operation .


How do we detect indoor formaldehyde?

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 13, 2020
There might be 2 additional problems to solve before we get to the removal:
  1. How would people know they should look out for formaldehyde? (Education)
  2. How would people detect it? (Sensors)

Jamila 10 months ago
There aren't many devices that detect formaldehyde reliably or accurately. Recently, I read a paper in which researchers used a device called an electronic nose to detect formaldehyde! The electronic nose tech has been used to detect hazardous gases before. So, it would be interesting to see what happens next with this technology! [1] Reference: van den Broek, Jan, Andreas T. Güntner, and Sotiris E. Pratsinis. "Selective Detection of Formaldehyde By a Flame-Made Sensor Array for Environmental Monitoring." 237th ECS Meeting with the 18th International Meeting on Chemical Sensors (IMCS 2020)(May 10-14, 2020). ECS, 2020.

Formaldehyde neutralizing microbes

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 13, 2020
Apparently, there are some microbes like Rhodobacter sphaeroides that can eat formaldehyde. They can be used for both detecting and neutralizing it. I don't know much about Rhodobacter, but if for some reason it's not suitable for this purpose a better species could be engineered to do the job.

I imagine some kind of solution where spores of a suitable bacterial species could be dissolved in a few liters of liquid and then sprayed all over the room. This could be repeated a few times until all of the surface formaldehyde has been degraded - making the room safe to live in.


Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni9 months ago
Formaldehyde will usually be in the air. The microbes on surfaces would probably not be able to ingest/ digest it. We need something that breaks the formaldehyde molecules in the air or something that purifies air.
Darko Savic
Darko Savic9 months ago
Ventilation could take care of the air while something applied to the surfaces should hopefully prevent (grab) it from getting into the air
Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni9 months ago
Darko Savic True! You mean to layer the new furniture with the microbe till the formaldehyde fumes subside?

Method of detecting formaldehyde

Deru Xu
Deru Xu Nov 16, 2020
The detection methods mainly include: AHMT spectrophotometry, phenol reagent spectrophotometry, acetylacetone spectrophotometry, gas chromatography, sensor method, etc. Among them, the simpler ones are formaldehyde self-test kits.

AHMT spectrophotometry :Formaldehyde in the air condense with 4-Amino-5-hydrazino-1,2,4-triazole-3-thiol under alkaline conditions, and then oxidized by potassium periodate to6-mercapto-5-triazole[4,3-b]-S-tetraazabenzene purple red compound, its color depth is proportional to the formaldehyde content.

Phenol reagent spectrophotometry : The formaldehyde in the air reacts with the phenol reagent to generate azine, which is oxidized by high-valent iron ions in acid solution to form blue-green compounds. According to the color depth, the color is quantitative.

Acetylacetone spectrophotometric colorimetry : After the formaldehyde gas is absorbed by water, it reacts with acetylacetone in the pH=6 acetic acid-ammonium acetate buffer solution. Under the conditions of boiling water bath, a stable yellow compound is quickly formed. The reaction formula is as follows:

Gas chromatography:The formaldehyde in the air is adsorbed on the carrier coated with 2,4-dinitrobenzene 6201 under acidic conditions to generate stable formaldehyde hydrazone. After eluting with carbon disulfide, it is separated by 0V-chromatographic column and measured with a hydrogen flame ionization detector. The content is determined by retention time and peak height.

Others: sensor method , formaldehyde self-test box, etc.

Choose the detection method according to your own conditions, including finding a professional laboratory or buying a simple formaldehyde detection box yourself (this method has large errors, but you can refer to it)

[1]Thomas Osterland, Hendrik Stein, and Thomas Wilharm. Voltammetric Determination of Formaldehyde at Low Concentrations in the Synthetic Fuel Oxymethylene Dimethyl Ether Innokentij Bogatykh. Energy & Fuels 2019 33 (11), 11078-11081

[2]Pengju Hu, Haisi Xiang, Xuejing Zhang,et al. Influence factors of determination of formaldehyde in air by phenolic reagent spectrophotometry[J]. Coal and Chemical Industry, 2020,43(04):140-142.

[3]Luyang Wang, Zhen Zhao, Xin Yuan. Detection and confirmation of free formaldehyde by acetyl acetone method[J].Chemical Engineer,2016,30(09):22-24.

[4]Naohide Shinohara, Tomohisa Kajiwara, Masato Ohnishi, et al. Passive Emission Colorimetric Sensor (PECS) for Measuring Emission Rates of Formaldehyde based on an Enzymatic Reaction and Reflectance Photometry. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2008, 42, 12, 4472–4477.

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni8 months ago
Deru Xu Although the suggestion is very precise, the whole process seems time-consuming and costly. It is suited for companies that manufacture furniture or upholstery but not for individual homes. Can we come up with a slightly crude but a simpler procedure (something like a proxy) that can be used by, potentially, everybody?

An exhaust that detects formaldehyde and removes it

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 14, 2020
I am thinking of combining two different technologies here - just like the smoke detector, an instrument that detects formaldehyde in the air. It will signal the exhaust (like an artificial chimney) that will turn on and start purifying the air.

Formaldehyde detector connected to air ventilation

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 22, 2020
There are commercial air quality sensors that include formaldehyde detection. One of those could be hooked up to a ventilator. Upon detection of formaldehyde, the ventilator would switch on and run until the levels are undetectable.

Search for "Formaldehyde Sensor Module High Accuracy Gas Sensor Detection" and you will find it. Any local electronics hobbyist should be able to take care of the rest for you:)

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