April 2019 Issue / By: Theresa Hendrick
Air quality is a major concern in large cities across the world due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation1,2. The pollutants that contribute to poor air quality include particulate matter, carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. The most prevalent VOCs include alcohols, aldehydes, alkanes, aromatics, ethers, halogenated compounds, olefins, ketones and sulphur containing compounds. VOC exposure impacts human health, with high concentrations leading to dizziness, headaches, irritation, nausea and potential exposure to carcinogens. It also impacts the environment and has been identified as responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion, tropospheric ozone formation, ground level smog formation, climate change and atmosphere toxicity2.
A variety of industries, processes and materials release VOCs, but sources of indoor VOCs have been gaining attention because people are spending an increased amount of time indoors (around 80–90 percent)1. In some instances, indoor air may be more polluted than outdoor air, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that VOCs are the most significant pollutants of indoor air1,3. In commonly used spaces such as offices, schools, homes, airports and hospitals, VOC release can come from paint, cleaning products, furniture, construction materials and appliances. As a result, new air purification and sensor technologies are turning to nanomaterials to improve air quality and meet regulatory requirements1.
Nanomaterials have a marked potential to positively impact the environment and human health through improved detection of pollution and removing pollution from air at a much-reduced cost compared with current technologies. The small size and large surface area of such materials afford them more efficacy in filtration than larger sized particles. The challenges in realising this benefit are high price, scalability difficulties and achieving uniform size distribution1. Certain nanomaterials used to reduce VOCs in air are catalytic, and convert VOCs to carbon dioxide and water. Catalytic oxidation is an effective process that allows for the oxidation of VOCs at a much lower temperature than other processes. An important consideration, and what has proven to be a challenge, is selecting the ideal catalyst despite the large amount that are available2.
The industrial air filtration market is valued at roughly US$14 billion per year, with the potential addressable market for nanomaterials >$2.5 billion1. Air filters utilising this technology are being developed and commercialised, and there is also increased interest in inventing novel air purifiers, as patent applications for air purifiers incorporating nanomaterials have more than quadrupled over the past decade. This nonconfidential report details the nanomaterials that are on the brink of revolutionising the air filtration market based on extensive market research and voice-of-customer interviews with industry professionals.
 The Global Market For Nanotechnology And Nanomaterials, 2010-2027. 3 ed., Future Markets, 2017. Kamal, M. et al. Catalytic oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – A review. Atmospheric Environment. 140, 117-134 (2016). Szulczynski, B. & Gebicki, J. Currently Commercially Available Chemical Sensors Employed for Detection of Volatile Organic Compounds in Outdoor and Indoor Air. Environments. 4, 1– 15 (2017).[/showhide]
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