Home » Scientists develop hand-held tool for testing airtightness

Scientists develop hand-held tool for testing airtightness

by Mark Cantrell
An empty room with large windows

Experts at a university in Leeds, West Yorkshire, working with a technology manufacturer, claim to have developed a low-cost tool for testing the airtightness of buildings.

The team of building performance experts from Leeds Beckett University teamed up with Coltraco Ultrasonics to develop the new device.

Portasound Airtight, as it’s called, is a handheld tool that uses ultrasound to detect and locate air leakage sites. It is the first system of its kind to also quantify the extent of any air leakage.

It’s said the tool can be applied to both new and existing buildings, so can be used before, during and after building or renovation.

Dr David Johnston is professor of building performance evaluation in the Leeds Sustainability Institute at Leeds Beckett University.

He said: “The airtightness performance of building fabric can have a significant impact on energy use and CO2 emissions.

“Therefore, it is important to develop low-cost tools that are capable of rapidly assessing and quantifying the airtightness performance of a building, providing an alternative to existing methods of testing airtightness.

“All of these tools will be important in helping the UK meet its Net Zero obligations.”

The new collaboration between Coltraco and Leeds Beckett has been funded by the UK government through Innovate UK to develop, evaluate, and optimise the use of the device. The aim is to create an improved version of the product, along with best practice guides and training materials for professionals.

The project will assess the use of the new technology within both a controlled and real-world environment. This will be used to design and develop a rigorous, best-practice process.

The team will also compare the technology with other airtightness testing technologies – such as blower door fans – to assess the accuracy of the Portascanner Airtight, and how it compliments tried and tested existing technologies.

The team also plan to make improvements to the technology, including upgrading the hardware to include a wireless sensor, and developing and testing a mount for a geostationary drone, to hold the generator in place on external structures for tall buildings.

Daniel Dobrowolski, senior physicist for research, development, design, and ergonomics at Coltraco Ultrasonics, said: “We are committed to evaluating the benefits of the Portascanner Airtight as a rapid testing tool through a systematic empirical study, and so this project is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with the academic experts.

“The research we undertake with Leeds Beckett will aid professional airtightness testers, building services engineers, and building surveyors to confidently take full advantage of Coltraco’s innovative technology to improve building airtightness and, ultimately, building sustainability.”

Johnston added: “We look forward to further developing our relationship with Coltraco, and demonstrating how industry and universities can work together to improve the sustainability of the built environment in the UK.”

Image credit: David Papazian/Shutterstock

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