Research Highlight

Novel Air Leak Detection System

ORNL develops novel, nontoxic system that seeks air leaks in occupied buildings.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a novel, nontoxic fluorescent air leak detection system that can find cracks in walls and roofs in existing and new buildings. In laboratory experiments, ORNL’s Diana Hun and Brenda Smith used an off-the-shelf humidifier to release a water-based solution of commercially available riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, supplement against a plywood wall with cracks. When the room was pressurized, tiny vitamin droplets were pulled to the leak points where they accumulated. The vitamins remained invisible unless revealed under ultraviolet light when they fluoresced. “Our system is ideal for occupied buildings, because the solution won’t harm furniture, for instance, plus the vitamin particles are not visible or harmful to occupants,” Hun said. Repair of a leaky home could yield a $450 per year energy savings with a 2.5-year payback. The ORNL-developed system could be used in other spaces such as storage containers.

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