A team of researchers from the University of Alicante (UA) has patented a device and software to detect acetic acid, which is an atmospheric pollutant that is usually present inside buildings and whose presence and accumulation can be harmful to people and is also the cause of the deterioration of works of art.

This method is “much simpler, more precise and cheaper” than those existing up to now and its development began after a “chance finding” that consists of the color change of an additive when it detected the presence of acid, as reported by the institution academic in a statement.

Manuel Ortuño, professor in the Department of Physics, Systems Engineering and Signal Theory, explained that this discovery was made when his team (made up of Wafaa Miloua, a student on the PhD program in Physics applied to Sciences and Technologies; Adrián Romo, student of the master’s degree in Occupational Risk Prevention and Víctor Navarro, technical specialist in the Department of Physics, Systems Engineering and Signal Theory) carried out work with holographic material.

From the discovery, an investigation began that has resulted in the design of the device and the software that will be prepared for commercialization and that will be tested at the MUA (Museum of the University of Alicante) “shortly”.

The new device “constantly monitors the air to see how the concentration of acetic acid varies,” Manuel Ortuño has detailed. For this reason, it is “especially indicated” for workplaces where, due to its activity, this atmospheric pollutant is generated and also for museums or places where works of art are exhibited or stored, since its presence is very harmful to the pieces.

“The advantages of this technology compared to those that already exist are many”, stated the professor, who explained that, in addition to its reliability and ease of use, it allows the specific detection of acetic acid and quantification of its concentration, distinguishing it from other acidic compounds with which it may be mixed and it does so in a “quick and intuitive” way, generating a visually appreciable color change.

In addition, the detection of acetic acid can be carried out in different media (liquid, solid, gas phase or any combination of them), it is possible to regenerate the active detection medium through a simple process so it can be reused and, therefore, reduce the generation of consumables and waste. It can also be used by personnel without specialized training and entails a lower cost than other technologies.