Back To The Usual Air-Quality Geekery

Two laser-cut snowflakes.

Two laser-cut snowflakes.

The holidays are now over, and I’m beginning to return to my normal routine.  I had a nice time this year; I visited friends and family, and also organized a Christmas eve open house we dubbed “Hackmas”.  Hackmas came complete with vegan hot-chocolate (rum optional), laser-cut snow flakes, a red coconut curry someone described as “A Christmas miracle”, fresh baked cookies, and non-traditional holiday music.  For a few of the songs we enjoyed, you should listen to Tim Minchin’s White Wine In The Sun, Dar Williams’ The Christians And The Pagans, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s The NSA Is Coming To Town.  There were only a couple of us left on Christmas morning, but I made some walnut and cranberry pancakes from scratch and they were thoroughly enjoyed.

Now that the festivities are done with I’ve turned my attention back to geeking out on air quality.  My research on oxygen sensors is beginning to bear fruit, and while I will save my sensor comparisons for another post, I can tell you that the solid-state sensors which use the fluorescence-quenching qualities of oxygen are looking pretty ingenious and awesome.  The mechanisms used in solid-state gas and chemical vapour sensors in general are pretty clever, and half the fun of my research is learning how the sensing mechanism works.  I’ll post more about that later.

One of the things I want to do once I have some data on Hacklab’s air is take some steps to actively improve the quality of the atmosphere inside the space by improving the atmospheric oxygen concentration and removing volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), smoke, and other toxins.  There are efficient air filtration systems with activated charcoal and HEPA filters that I could use for toxin removal, but I’m quite interested in the possibility of using houseplants to perform the same task.  I’ve been looking at some research which suggests certain houseplants are quite efficient at removing airborne toxins, though I’m finding a need to review some of the research methodology and fact check many claims; there’s a lot of questionable science and subjective experience mixed into the data.

While I’m researching sensors and plants, you should watch this short TED Talk about using houseplants to improve indoor air quality in India.


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