A fact that is not known to many is that many of our homes have significant levels of formaldehyde, a toxin that adversely affects health. According to researchers and studies, there are certain plants that have bacteria in their roots. These bacteria have the ability to break down formaldehyde. In this project, we will experiment with these plants. Using specially designed pots, we will increase the amount of oxygen available to the roots and observe whether this escalates the process of breakdown of the formaldehyde.
Focusing on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), we will carry out this project. Ever since the 1970s when sick building syndrome (SBS) was most prevalent, scientists have been extensively studying VOCs and their effects on human health. SBS basically affects office workers, common symptoms being headaches or respiratory troubles. Upon chronic exposure, people may develop asthmatic symptoms. This research is basically focused on answering the question: “How can we improve the efficiency of these plants?” What we have to see is whether ample oxygen supply to the roots of these plants considerably boost the breakdown process of formaldehyde.
At present, there exists no low-cost system for remediation of formaldehyde. Though a plant system as we have proposed has been built on a Public Lab project, they do not have the requisite data to compare and monitor an aerated plant system to a traditionally potted plant. Such a system needs to be verified through repeated experiments. This project is very important because it is a significant step in cleaning the air surrounding us. If we are successful in our endeavors then every home in India can easily breathe cleaner and fresher air. An added benefit - this air remediation method is sustainable since there is no hassle of replacing filters and with time, the plant will only become more efficient as the bacteria colony continues to multiply.
The goal of our project is to collect data on the formaldehyde remediation capabilities of a regularly potted plant and the aerated plant system and monitor them closely. This data is really important as it is an indicator of exactly how much more or less efficient the aerated system is. Once we have successfully raised the funds for the experiments, we will begin the assembly process of the system. An air sample will be taken before the experiment to get an initial level of formaldehyde. We will place both the plants in similar rooms and for 8 days we will continuously monitor the air samples of the rooms.
For our research, we will use Snake plants as the test subjects. As far as the Air Pump is concerned, it’ll serve a dual purpose - provide airflow to the plant system and act as the sampling pump for the formaldehyde diffusion tubes. The Growstone, Airstone, hoses and fittings will be used to build the plant system. Also, we need to procure a graduated cylinder and a thermo-hygrometer for the purpose of calibration.