Determination of partition and diffusion coefficients of formaldehyde in selected building materials and impact of relative humidity

Jing Xu, Jianshun S. Zhang, Xiaoyu Liu, Zhi Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The partition and effective diffusion coefficients of formaldehyde were measured for three materials (conventional gypsum wallboard, "green" gypsum wallboard, and "green" carpet) under three relative humidity (RH) conditions (20%, 50%, and 70% RH). The "green" materials contained recycled materials and were friendly to environment. A dynamic dual-chamber test method was used. Results showed that a higher relative humidity led to a larger effective diffusion coefficient for two kinds of wallboards and carpet. The carpet was also found to be very permeable resulting in an effective diffusion coefficient at the same order of magnitude with the formaldehyde diffusion coefficient in air. The partition coefficient (Kma) of formaldehyde in conventional wallboard was 1.52 times larger at 50% RH than at 20% RH, whereas it decreased slightly from 50% to 70% RH, presumably due to the combined effects of water solubility of formaldehyde and micro-pore blocking by condensed moisture at the high RH level. The partition coefficient of formaldehyde increased slightly with the increase of relative humidity in "green" wallboard and "green" carpet. At the same relative humidity level, the "green" wallboard had larger partition coefficient and effective diffusion coefficient than the conventional wallboard, presumably due to the micro-pore structure differences between the two materials. The data generated could be used to assess the sorption effects of formaldehyde on building materials and to evaluate its impact on the formaldehyde concentration in buildings. Based on the results of this study, the sink effects of these commonly used materials (conventional and "green" gypsum wallboards, "green" carpet) on indoor formaldehyde concentration could be estimated. The effects of relative humidity on the diffusion and partition coefficients of formaldehyde were found to differ for materials and for different humidity levels, indicating the need for further investigation of the mechanisms through which humidity effects take place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-679
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Atmospheric Science


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