Comparing Change in Biogenic Volatile Organic Compound Emission from Human and Plants Under Stressed Conditions
Selina Zhou
Collingwood School
Floor Location : S 054 H

Biogenic volatile organic compound(BVOC) emissions from plants are widely known as important parts of many ecological functions. Studies has shown BVOCs to indicate environmental stress adaption and serve as chemical signals between plants. However, there has been few studies on implications of VOC emissions in human stress conditions due to the ethical difficulties in human testings. It has been proven that changes in BVOC concentration can mirror physiological processes in the human body, but most of these implications are limited to infectious type diseases.
By comparing BVOC emission from plants under stressed conditions and human VOC emission metabolism under stress conditions, correlations would indicate potential similarities in physiological processes. If such link is found, it can also mean a new approach to studying human VOC metabolisms. It would also be proof of a link between mental, physical and biochemical stress from metabolic processes. Application of these relationships could aid scent recognition in searches, and serve as potential indication of stress during surgeries or for unconscious patients.
There will be two device measuring VOC emission level simultaneously: a commercial air quality monitor device measuring in mg/m3, and a metal oxide semiconductor gas sensor sensitive to VOC in the air that is connected in a simple circuit to measure changes in concentration in short time intervals by monitoring the output voltage of the circuit. Combining these two measurements would provide a comprehensive quantitative level of emission and a precise change in concentration as a function of time, since the semiconductor sensor is more sensitive than the commercial air quality monitor device.
In this experiment, measurements will be focused on changes in indoor total volatile organic compound, since it has been proven that human-emitted VOC accounts for a large sector of indoor TVOC levels.
BVOCs from plants are to be measured in an empty room with pre-recorded TVOC level. First, separate groups of sansevieria trifasciata (snake plant) are put under three different stress conditions: punctures, overwatering, and lack of sunlight. Temperature and light exposure are carefully monitored. Total VOC emissions are recorded, and a change in TVOC vs. time graph is constructed. The emission quantity and graphs are compared to a control group, in which no stress is applied. It is assumed that VOC emission from soil micro-organisms are insensitive to stress and not accounted. After recording data, plants are dried and weighted to calculate biomass. Mass-associated VOC emission factor will be calculated in mg/h/gram.
Human VOC emission will be measured in a school environment. First, the VOC level of an empty classroom is measured. VOC emission and pattern will be measured during a normal class time and on a test day, then compared. The total occupant-associated VOC emission factor will then be calculated in mg/h per person and an estimate level in mg/h per gram.
There is no results yet at the time of writing, but similarities are expected.