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How printing can help to improve indoor air quality

The Parc project is funded by the US DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Building Technologies Office

Printing could help develop a low cost sensor that leads to smarter buildings
Printing could help develop a low cost sensor that leads to smarter buildings

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has chosen technology and research and development (R&D) company, Parc, to develop low-cost CO2 - Carbon Dioxide - sensors to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency within buildings.


Parc, a Xerox company, provides custom R&D and was selected via a funding opportunity award from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) through its Building Technologies Office (BTO). It is providing investment of up to $15.8 million in 13 projects that will drive innovation in early-stage R&D for advanced building technologies and systems that will serve as a foundation for future technological developments and reductions in building energy consumption.


Technology works via physical adsorption


For the project, Parc will produce a low-cost, printed sorbent that measures CO2 via physical adsorption. The sensor heats up as a result of the CO2 adsorption, and Parc measures the heat produced to determine the levels of CO2. The goal of the research effort is to develop a low-cost sensor with a sensitivity of 50ppm.


"Prominent studies have shown that high levels of CO2 lower our efficacy in decision-making and in our ability to concentrate," said Dr Clinton Smith, lead Parc researcher on the project. "We aim to create a technology which will enable per-room level measurement of CO2 concentration.


“This will allow building managers finer grained control of their HVAC system for more energy efficiency, and it will also help to promote healthy indoor air quality."


The average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is 400 ppm, with higher indoor concentrations that can reach over 1500 ppm. National regulations require indoor CO2 levels to be below 1,100 ppm. Currently, there is no cost-effective means of measuring indoor CO2 levels and buildings are over-ventilated, wasting substantial amounts of energy. Low-cost CO2 sensors will be significant in helping reduce levels and manage building efficiency.


The Internet of Things (IoT) enables a myriad of solutions to help sense and interpret the world. Printing is a promising approach to mass-produce and customise sensor systems to support the fast growing IoT. The low-cost, flexible form factor, and simple installation of Parc’s approach is ideal for a variety of applications including smart cities, building efficiency, air quality, industrial and residential safety, and wearables.


In addition to the cost of fabrication and materials, commissioning is a major barrier to economical implementation. Automatic localisation, simplified calibration, and redundancy can help reduce the commissioning effort required. The key to the success of any widespread IoT deployment is the ability to utilise configurable, on-demand, low-cost sensor systems, and to design the technology to best fit the application.


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