Using home lampshades to turn pollutants into purified air

Scientists have designed catalyst-coated lampshades that transform indoor air pollutants into harmless compounds.
Sejal Sharma
Lampshades turning air purifiers
Lampshades turning air purifiers

Kim et al 

Scientists studying ways to improve indoor air quality in an economical and eco-friendly way have come up with something called the lampshade system. They coated a lampshade with a thermocatalyst which would transform indoor air pollutants into harmless compounds.

Most of the power used by bulbs placed inside lamp shades or elsewhere goes into emitting heat and very less light. “That heat is typically wasted,” said Hyoung-il Kim, the project’s principal investigator. “But we decided to use it to activate a thermocatalyst to decompose VOCs.”

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that have a high vapor pressure and low water solubility. Many VOCs are harmful and are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants.

“Although the concentration of VOCs in a home or office is low, people spend more than 90% of their time indoors, so the exposure adds up over time,” added Kim.

Clever coating transforming lampshades

The coated lampshades are targeting these VOCs, which they want to break down to acetaldehyde (an aldehyde that is highly reactive and toxic and causes damage at the cellular and genomic levels), and then into formic acid (simplest carboxylic acid), and finally into carbon dioxide and water. After turning on the lampshade, the inside temperature reaches about 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is warm enough to activate the catalysts and decompose acetaldehyde.

Extending the tech to LEDs

The team published a paper last year, in which they reported having synthesized thermocatalysts made of titanium dioxide and a small amount of platinum. In their latest work, which was presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting during August 13–17, the team is turning to less expensive substitutes for platinum. 

The team is likely to turn to a copper-based catalyst, which would also be a disinfectant. So, they anticipate that the copper catalyst could kill airborne microorganisms.

“This was the first demonstration to utilize waste heat from lamp sources,” said Kim. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a hybrid catalyst that can utilize the full spectrum produced by light sources, including UV and visible light, as well as waste heat.”

The lampshades currently work with halogen and incandescent light bulbs only, but the team is extending the technology so it will also be compatible with LEDs.

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