Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Jianshun S. Zhang


diffusion coefficient, multilayer, partition coefficient, porous media, relative humidity, VOCs

Subject Categories

Mechanical Engineering


Indoor VOCs concentrations are influenced greatly by the transport and storage of VOCs in building and furnishing materials, majority of which belong to porous media. The transport and storage ability of a porous media for a given VOC can be characterized by its diffusion coefficient and partition coefficient, respectively, and such data are currently lacking. Besides, environmental conditions are another important factor that affects the VOCs emission. The main purposes of this dissertation are: (1) validate the similarity hypothesis between the transport of water vapor and VOCs in porous materials, and help build a database of VOC transport and storage properties with the assistance of the similarity hypothesis; (2) investigate the effect of relative humidity on the diffusion and partition coefficients; (3) develop a numerical multilayer model to simulate the VOCs' emission characteristics in both short and long term.

To better understand the similarity and difference between moisture and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) diffusion through porous media, a dynamic dual-chamber experimental system was developed. The diffusion coefficients and partition coefficients of moisture and selected VOCs in materials were compared. Based on the developed similarity theory, the diffusion behavior of each particular VOC in porous media is predictable as long as the similarity coefficient of the VOC is known.

Experimental results showed that relative humidity in the 80%RH led to a higher partition coefficient for formaldehyde compared to 50%RH. However, between 25% and 50% RH, there was no significant difference in partition coefficient. The partition coefficient of toluene decreased with the increase of humidity due to competition with water molecules for pore surface area and the non-soluble nature of toluene. The solubility of VOCs was found to correlate well with the partition coefficient of VOCs. The partition coefficient of VOCs was not simply inversely proportional to the vapor pressure of the compound, but also increased with the increase of the Henry's law constant. Experiment results also showed that a higher relative humidity led to a larger effective diffusion coefficient for both conventional wallboard and green wallboard. The partition coefficient (Kma) of formaldehyde in conventional wallboard was larger at 50% RH than at 20% RH, while the difference in partition coefficient between 50% RH and 70% RH was insignificant. For the green wallboard and green carpet, the partition coefficient increased slightly with the increase of relative humidity from 20% to 50% and 70%.

Engineered wood products such as particleboard have widely been used with wood veneer and laminate to form multilayer assembly work surfaces or panels. The multilayer model study in this dissertation comprised both numerical and experimental investigation of the VOCs emission from such an assembly. A coupled 1D multilayer model based on CHAMPS (coupled heat, air, moisture and pollutant simulations) was first described. Later, the transport properties of each material layer were determined. Several emission cases from a three-layered heterogeneous work assembly were modeled using a developed simulation model. At last, the numerical model was verified by the experimental data of both hexanal and acetaldehyde emissions in a 50L standard small scale chamber. The model is promising in predicting VOCs' emissions for multilayered porous materials in emission tests.


Open Access