Modeling the Reversible Sink Effect in Response to Transient Contaminant Sources

Publication Type

Journal Article



A physically based diffusion model is used to evaluate the sink effect of diffusion-controlled indoor materials and to predict the transient contaminant concentration in indoor air in response to several time-varying contaminant sources. For simplicity, it is assumed that the predominant indoor material is a homogeneous slab, initially free of contaminant, and that the air within the room is well mixed. The model enables transient volatile organic compound (VOC) concentrations to be predicted based on the material/air partition coefficient (K) and the material-phase diffusion coefficient (D) of the sink. Model predictions are made for four scenarios, each mimicking a realistic situation in a building. Styrene, phenol, and naphthalene are used as representative VOCs. A styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) backed carpet, vinyl flooring (VF), and a polyurethane foam (PUF) carpet cushion are considered as typical indoor sinks. In scenarios involving a sinusoidal VOC input and a double exponential decaying input, the model predicts that the sink has a modest impact for SBR/styrene, but that the effect increases for VF/phenol and PUF/naphthalene. In contrast, for an episodic chemical spill, SBR is predicted to reduce the peak styrene concentration considerably. A parametric study reveals that for systems involving a high equilibrium factor (K), the kinetic factor (D) will govern the shape of the resulting gas-phase concentration profile. On the other hand, for systems with a relaxed mass transfer resistance, K will dominate the profile.


Indoor Air



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