Student Spotlights

Brandon Boor

brandon boor in lab

Brandon, a Fulbright fellow, prepares setup for a full-scale mattress resuspension project.

Undergraduate work as a co-op student piqued Brandon Boor’s (M.S. 2010) interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) and how it affects human sleeping areas. As a doctoral student working with the Building Energy & Environments (BEE) research group, he has had the opportunity to explore important and emerging issues in this field. His research has focused on characterizing the resuspension of settled dust particles from indoor surfaces and studying sources and transport of pollutants in the sleeping microenvironment.

Settled particles, such as dust mite allergens, fungal spores, and bacteria of human origin, can be become airborne through a process known as resuspension. Boor conducted a wind tunnel study to examine how resuspension is influenced by the type of particle deposit and the dust loading on a surface. He found that particles are much more easily released into the air from heavy, multilayer deposits (e.g. a thick dust cake on a dirty floor) compared to sparse, monolayer deposits. He explained that enhanced resuspension occurs from multilayer deposits due to reduced adhesion forces, saltating particles, and aggregate resuspension.

He then extended this work to a full-scale study to explore human-induced particle resuspension from mattresses and bedding. Collaborating with visiting researcher Michal Spilak from Aalborg University in Denmark, they found that human movement in bed can resuspend significant quantities of settled dust.

“For example, we found that simply rolling from the supine to prone position elevates short-term particle concentrations in one’s breathing zone by more than an order of magnitude,” says Boor.

Their work also demonstrated that resuspension is strongly influenced by particle size, movement intensity, and the arrangement of pillows and blankets. Surprisingly, one’s body mass has minimal impact.

He has also characterized the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new and used infant crib mattresses. During a five-month stay at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Espoo, Finland, Boor discovered that crib mattresses are an important source of a variety of VOCs, and their emission rate is influenced by temperature, foam material, and age of the mattress.

He is currently continuing related work to identify phthalate plasticizers and flame retardants in these mattresses. “The variety of chemicals that may off-gas from crib mattresses raises concern,” he says, “given the amount of time infants spend sleeping (~14 hours/day), their close proximity to the source, and the potential for exposure through multiple pathways.”

Boor plans to return to Finland for 11 months starting late summer 2013. He received a Fulbright-CIMO Doctoral Grant and American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship to conduct research at the University of Helsinki Division of Atmospheric Sciences and Aalto University School of Engineering. He will study the emissions and transport of nanoparticles in indoor environments and conduct a comparative analysis of Finnish and American ventilation and indoor air quality practices.

Boor grew up in Columbia, Maryland, a Baltimore suburb. As an undergraduate, his student work with the IAQ research group at the National Institute of Standards & Technology inspired him to pursue graduate studies at UT Austin. He came to the CAEE Department in 2009 after earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from York College of Pennsylvania. He was attracted to the department’s leading IAQ research group led by Professors Richard Corsi, Atila Novoselac, and Ying Xu.

“The diversity of research projects, top-notch laboratory facilities, and the opportunity to work with leading experts in the field brought me to UT,” he says. “The CAEE department and BEE research group have provided me with the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people from across the globe. I am very grateful for the support and advice I receive from my advisors and fellow students. My group has also taught me the importance of collaborating with interdisciplinary and international partners to solve emerging problems in the IAQ field.”

While at UT Austin, Boor has received funding from a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, NSF Nordic Research Opportunity Grant, NSF IGERT Traineeship, Thrust 2000 Graduate Fellowship in Engineering, David Bruton, Jr. Graduate Fellowship, a Kolodzey Travel Grant, and an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air Conditioning Engineers Grant-In-Aid.

Outside of school, Boor enjoysphotography, cooking, and following football, soccer, and Formula 1 (F1) racing.

 “One of the most memorable experiences of living in Austin was attending my first F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in 2012”, he says. “F1 is the premier motorsport competition in the world, and with races in Monaco, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi, it is still hard to believe Austin has a F1 track just miles from my home!”

He also enjoys traveling, and since living in Finland in 2011, he has traveled throughout Northern Europe, including a road trip around the Ring Road in Iceland. He hopes to explore more of the beautiful and untouched landscapes of Finland when returning as a Fulbright fellow. He looks forward to learning more about Nordic culture, architecture, the Finnish education system, and Finland’s approach to protecting and preserving their environmental resources and encouraging sustainable and healthy building design.

After graduation, he plans to continue research in the field of IAQ and hopes to find a faculty or research position in the US or abroad.