Technology Demonstration of Real-Time Formaldehyde Gas Monitor (Formaldehyde Gas Monitor) - 08.29.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Technology Demonstration of Real-Time Formaldehyde Gas Monitor (Formaldehyde Gas Monitor) is a prototype laser-based sensor that continuously checks for dangerous levels of formaldehyde in areas of the International Space Station (ISS). Formaldehyde leaking from equipment or biological sources poses a health threat to ISS crew and is currently monitored by shuttling air samples down to Earth-based labs where formaldehyde levels are determined by chemical analysis. During this test phase of its development, the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor deploys a state-of-the-art laser based detection system aboard the ISS for six months and then compares its results with the slower and more expensive chemical methods.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Kenneth C. Jenks, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: NanoRacks Formaldehyde Monitor

Principal Investigator(s)
Paul D. Mudgett, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Information Pending

NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2018 - April 2019

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
This is the first time the electronic FGM will be manifested, but the chemical sensing system (Formaldehyde Monitoring Kit or FMK) has been deployed on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station for more than a decade.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Technology Demonstration of Real-Time Formaldehyde Gas Monitor (Formaldehyde Gas Monitor) is needed to validate and calibrate the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor.
  • The research proves that the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor works, and shows how the formaldehyde levels sensed by the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor compares with the current chemical sensing system.
  • The impact of the research is mostly in cost and time savings for the International Space Station (ISS), but successful demonstration also points the way to use of an electronic Formaldehyde Gas for deep-space exploration missions, where the chemical sensing system could not be used.


The International Space Station (ISS) Program is investigating the use of a Formaldehyde Gas Monitor (FGM) in Technology Demonstration of Real-Time Formaldehyde Gas Monitor (Formaldehyde Gas Monitor). This laser-based sensor allows continuous monitoring of formaldehyde in the atmosphere of the ISS, replacing the chemical-based Formaldehyde Monitor Kit (FMK). If the new electronic sensor works well, the ISS Program benefits with streamlined logistics, lower operational costs, more timely data, more data samples, reduced use of crew time on-orbit, reduced down-mass (which is limited), and reduced laboratory processing on the ground.
This technology demonstration is an investigation into the electronic formaldehyde sensor developed for NASA under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant through Glenn Research Center. The SBIR-provided sensor was integrated into an existing space-qualified enclosure, with the addition of a space-qualified power subsystem for integration into the ISS electrical power system.
The investigation validates the sensor in a space environment, showing that it meets the scientific and programmatic needs for sensing the formaldehyde levels in the ISS cabin atmosphere to about 10 parts per billion. The laser-based system looks at absorption spectrum, comparing formaldehyde lines with water lines. It uses a partially-evacuated cylinder to improve the clarity of the spectra. The hardware operates either on 110 VDC ISS power or (briefly) on internal batteries.

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Space Applications
The Formaldehyde Gas Monitor can be adapted to a range of different settings where formaldehyde poses a health risk, including manufacturing work sites, submarines and subsurface mines. The device’s advantages of timeliness, cost effectiveness and portability can also drive improvements in other types of environmental monitoring. These applications can ultimately lower workplace risk and enhance detection of security threats or natural disasters.

Earth Applications
Long-term space travel and crew safety require remote, portable and real-time sensing of cabin conditions. The Formaldehyde Gas Monitor improves the cost and timeliness of cabin environmental monitoring and provides a model for further development of efficient safety systems.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

The Formaldehyde Gas Monitor unit is mounted with Velcro near the NanoRacks Frame in the JEM section of the ISS, during the six-month Technology Demonstration phase. Two times during this period, the crew removes the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor from the rack for hand-held operations, in cooperation with the Biomedical Engineers (BME) position in the Mission Control Center-Houston (MCC-H). This hand-held operation lasts about 20 minutes.
During the six-month Technology Demonstration phase, the crew continues the use of the chemical-based Formaldehyde Monitor Kit (FMKs). These are used for scientific calibration of the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor by comparing the Formaldehyde Gas Monitor data gathered in real time with the post-landing chemical analysis of the data from the FMKs.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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