Skip Ribbon Commands
Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Indicative Project

Alternative sampling methods - indoor air quality

Background Info

​There is substantial information available on the measurement and evaluation of indoor air contaminants in industrial settings, in which air samples have usually been collected using either a sorbent tube with pump or an evacuated canister with flow regulator. However, these methodologies are not always sensitive enough to allow for the quantification of contamination at environmental levels. Air levels of contamination measured in the indoor air of residences and business buildings are generally much lower than the concentrations associated with occupational exposure in an industrial setting. The indoor air investigator should consider these differences in sensitivity when making
decisions regarding monitoring and the design of an indoor air-sampling plan will vary with the objectives of the study. Considerations include developing a list of target compounds and parameters to be analysed, determining the required sampling duration, choosing a sampling and analytical method and detection capability consistent with the study objectives, establishing representative sampling conditions, and ensuring that adequate quality assurance and quality control practices are in place
throughout the sampling and analytical process.

Project Description

​The aim of this project would be to investigate and validate the use of passive diffusion devices for the characterisation of longer-term (up to three weeks) average concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These simple sampling devices may be more practical than other methods from a cost and logistical viewpoint for routine, longer-term indoor air sampling. To date, commercially available passive devices containing charcoal as the absorbent medium are used qualitatively to determine VOC ‘hotspots’ in industrial settings. As with active time-weighted samples, the chemicals are first desorbed from the badge’s sampling medium and then are analysed using gas
chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques. There are several recognised potential problems with these types of passive samplers which include effects of higher humidity, back diffusion off the sampling medium, interferences between compounds and high blank values for benzene, styrene and sometimes toluene. Further development with the application of these types of samplers to environmental level indoor air VOC characterisation should address these issues.

Examples of Relevant Sudent Courses

Analytical Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Organic Chemistry

Student Level

Honours, Masters


1 year


North Ryde (NSW)


Air Laboratory


Gavin Stevenson

Email Contact

Interested in this project?

Application Form