The potential for buildup of formaldehyde in closed space environments poses a direct health hazard to personnel. The
National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) has established a maximum permitted concentration of 0.04 ppm for 7 to
180 days for all space craft. Early detection is critical to ensure that formaldehyde levels do not accumulate above these
limits. New sensor technologies are needed to enable real time, in situ detection in a compact and reusable form factor.
Addressing this need, research into the use of reactive fluorescent dyes which reversibly bind to formaldehyde (liquid or
gas) has been conducted to support the development of a formaldehyde sensor. In the presence of formaldehyde the
dyes' characteristic fluorescence peaks shift providing the basis for an optical detection. Dye responses to formaldehyde
exposure were characterized; demonstrating the optical detection of formaldehyde in under 10 seconds and down to
concentrations of 0.5 ppm. To incorporate the dye in an optical sensor device requires a means of containing and
manipulating the dye. Multiple form factors using two dissimilar substrates were considered to determine a suitable
configuration. A prototype sensor was demonstrated and considerations for a fieldable sensor were presented. This
research provides a necessary first step toward the development of a compact, reusable, real time optical formaldehyde
sensor suitable for use in the U.S. space program.