Projects and Solutions

The design and fabrication of an optoelectronic sensor for the detection of mould growth

Mould is a concern for homeowners, as it can cause extreme damage to property costing large sums of money, as well as causing serious health issues. Currently little is known about the factors that influence the time line of mould growth in homes. Hence, as part of the Three Little Pigs Project, an optoelectronic sensor (the “Mould Spy”) has been developed that will allow for the monitoring of mould growth in a non-destructive real-time manner. The sensor detects the changes in absorption of incident light that occur as mould grows on membrane that has been seeded with mould spores.

Membranes scanned using a flat bed scanner versus mould sensor output

With the aid of other measurements, such as temperature, moisture, and humidity, the research team will be able to quantify the factors that lead to mould growth in homes. The sensor data will help in understanding which building materials and construction methods lead to wall assemblies that are more susceptible to mould growth.

Thus far, 40 sensors have been built, of which 20 have been fully assembled and have undergone numerous bench top tests to better understand their working characteristics and to determine a calibration curve. The sensor output data have also been compared to data from a flat bed scanner to determine the consistency of the optoelectronic response. As can be seen in Figure 1, there is a good correlation between the sensor output and the scanner output when imaging the same membrane, for different amounts of mould growth.

Two mould sensors installed into a wall cavity in the Control Building

These sensors are now installed into two wall panels (one brick finish and one metal finish) of the Control Building of the Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes, along with other sensors, such as moisture pins, moisture wafers, humidity sensors, and temperature sensors, as seen in Figure 2. The configuration of both panels is identical and they will be subjected to the same external environmental conditions.

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Faculty of Engineering • Spencer Engineering Building
The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5B9 • Tel: 519-661-2128

Updated June 22, 2010 by contactWE
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