When I am fortunate enough to buy a new car, one of my pleasures in the new car is the pure joy of sitting inside it and smelling that lovely mix of luxury and brand-new materials. Have you ever wondered what that new car smell is actually? Well, you’re in luck, as in this post, I will present a recently released thermal desorptionGC-MS method for the analysis of air in new cars but also talk a little about legislation around the globe to monitor and control the air quality inside a new car plus if these emissions are safe.
Besides all the above regulations, there are also seven different ISO standards, the ISO 12219 series, which range from putting a complete car in a chamber and measuring the emitted volatiles, to sampling the air inside a vehicle to taking some parts, for example, the leather or carpets and measuring the emissions from those materials. It appears to me that the rules and regulations are more complex than the actual analysis itself; typically, all those measurements are performed with thermal desorption GC-MS consisting of the following steps:
The volatile compounds are absorbed in a tube which is packed with material such as tenax to contain the compounds.
The tubes are then desorbed using heat and a carrier gas transports the volatile compounds towards a trapping device where they are focused, the trap is again heated and the compounds travel towards the GC-MS system.
The GC-MS system separates and identifies the compounds and then all the compounds are quantified using a toluene equivalent.
So your next question probably is: Is it safe? Can we inhale that great smell of newness without worrying? Or, should we all start buying second-hand cars only?
It is relatively safe to enjoy your new car: All cars are tested according to the regulations of the region and, typically, the emissions should be lower as stated in the rules and regulations. The overall trend is decreasing the emissions from all products and improving the indoor air quality of vehicles. It is possible that, in the future, the new car smell might be so faint that only our dogs can detect it and thermal desorption GC-MS of course.
Check out these articles on the screening of VOCs in new automobiles: