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EMU Chemist Develops Models for Emissions in Car Interiors

Modeling of Volatile Organic Compounds Emission from Materials Used in Passenger Vehicle Interiors
Travel is an everyday necessity for many people, making the environment of a passenger vehicle a place where Americans spend a significant amount of time. New cars have been found to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), often called "New Car Smell". Although some find these odors enjoyable, "New Car Smell" could potentially have adverse health effects. Previous studies have indicated upwards of 150 VOCs present in new the ambient air within the cabins of new cars, including molecules like benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. While previous VOC models have been produced, there is still uncertainty in these models with respect to changing variables such as cabin temperature, and when the car doors or windows are opened/closed.

Dr. Gavin EdwardsThe development of an accurate and reliable model, capable of determining the concentration of different VOCs in a car cabin as a function of time, is the focus of a research project in the atmospheric chemistry research group, headed by Gavin Edwards. Dr. Edwards and his students are working on this project that involves a collaboration between EMU and the "Big Three" automakers in Detroit, as part of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) project. Currently, Dr. Edwards' group are trying to model VOCs from chamber experiments done at the Ford Motor Company. They hope that their models can be shown to work in chambers and then be scaled to automobile level analysis. Preliminary testing of these model has shown promise. Varying time points for sample collection, and various parameters such as VOC starting concentration and chamber temperature have been shown to play important roles in emission rates. Further experimental comparisons, statistical analyses, and model sensitivity testing will need to be done in the future as the project and collaboration continues.


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The Department of Chemistry is part of the College of Arts & Sciences, 214 Pray-Harrold