Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors breathing in air containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at up to 10 times the concentrations of outdoor air. VOCs include the cancerous formaldehyde and other chemicals released daily by building materials, cleaning supplies, paint, and other materials commonly found in both residential and commercial buildings. In office buildings, VOC levels can lead to Sick Building Syndrome with symptoms of headaches, fatigue, nausea, and eye irritation and result in a 9% decrease in office productivity which costs the U.S about $125 billion every year.
Current methods used to combat this problem are ventilation and filtration. However, both methods have drawbacks. Ventilation requires the incoming air to be heated or cooled to the indoor temperature, which can be an energy intensive process depending on the outdoor environment. Filters have their own problems as they can get clogged or even contribute to air contamination if they are not replaced. The third option is biowalls, vertical structures covered in plants that can help filter toxins from indoor air.
Biowalls can be split into 2 categories: active and passive systems. The active systems best filter the air by pushing the air directly over the root zone. Despite the air filtration benefit, this system can be energy and water intensive, and plant maintenance in more difficult. Passive systems on the other hand, have easy maintenance, low energy needs, and low water needs, but since the air doesn’t get to the root zones, it does not filter air as well. Team BREATHE aims to bridge the gap between these two models by designing an innovative system that brings the air filtration benefits of the active wall to the low-energy and low-maintenance qualities of the passive system. We also aim to investigate which plants host root bacterial communities that best filter out VOCs, so the final product will be a biowall system optimized with low energy, low maintenance, and high rates of VOC filtration.
Unfortunately, the most reliable data collection methods are also the most costly. Our methodology requires expensive molecular biology kits and supplies in addition the costs of renting greenhouse space, prototyping biowall designs, and purchasing VOCs for testing. Your support would contribute to the successful completion of our project and would lead to a low cost, low energy product that can sustainably filter indoor air. Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated by the team. Thank you for your interest and support.
Gifts in support of the University of Maryland are accepted and managed by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Inc., an affiliated 501(c)(3) organization authorized by the Board of Regents. Contributions to the University of Maryland are tax deductible as allowed by law. Please see your tax advisor for details.
A donation of $10 will cover the full analysis of one root sample, including DNA extraction and qPCR analysis.
A donation of $40 will help us rent one month of greenhouse space where we can grow and monitor our plants for the project.
A donation of $75 will purchase one aeroponic chamber, which is a necessary piece of equipment for part of our plant testing.
A donation of $100 will purchase 100mL of a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), which we will need for running tests in multiple phases of our research.
A donation of $350 will purchase a qPCR kit, needed to run bacterial analysis.
A donation of $500 will help send one of our team members to a conference where we can discuss our research with other scientists in the field.