Final Report: Field Rugged, Portable H2O2 Monitor

EPA Contract Number: EPD06051
Title: Field Rugged, Portable H2O2 Monitor
Investigators: Frish, Michael B.
Small Business: Physical Sciences Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2006 through August 31, 2006
Project Amount: $69,977
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , SBIR - Homeland Security , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project supports the development of a field-portable instrument for monitoring and controlling vapor phase hydrogen peroxide (VPHP) concentration during building decontamination after accidental or purposeful exposure to hazardous biological materials. VPHP, a highly reactive chemical, is one agent employed to sterilize biohazards. During sterilization or decontamination operations, the ambient concentration of VPHP exceeds 1,000 ppm and remains at that concentration for at least 60 minutes. The concentration then must diminish to below 1 ppm for the area to be occupied safely.

To meet these requirements, monitoring and controlling VPHP concentration during decontamination are necessary. Currently, there is no field-portable instrumentation suitable for real-time VPHP measurement over the full concentration range of interest. The goal of Phases I through III of this research project is to develop a product that enables accurate real-time H2O2 measurements over the concentration range of 1–10,000 ppm. The envisioned product is an adaptation of a portable gas-sensing platform, which is based on the optical technology known as Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS) technology. The sensor will offer a combination of sensitivity, specificity, fast response, dynamic range, linearity, ease of operation and calibration, ruggedness, and portability not available in alternative VPHP detectors.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

In this successful Phase I program, Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) adapted existing TDLAS sensor designs to measure VPHP, built a prototype VPHP sensor, and obtained data, which verified the feasibility of developing a field-portable VPHP monitor. PSI also accomplished the following: (1) identified a laser wavelength suitable for accurately measuring VPHP despite the presence of water vapor; (2) experimentally verified the wavelength selection and demonstrated measurement of VPHP at ppm concentrations, with no measurable effect of water vapor, which yielded a set of technical requirements for operating the sensor; (3) discussed sensor requirements and applications with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists and completed a technology niche analysis, with Foresight Science and Technology, that guided the design of a sensor meeting the requirements of the commercial marketplace; (4) created a conceptual design of a field-portable VPHP sensor that meets the target market price based on PSI’s understanding of the building decontamination application, potential commercial applications, and the technical operational requirements; and (5) built and tested portable, sealed VPHP-bearing cells suitable for verifying proper sensor operation during field use, which is a critical user requirement.


Before this project, the significant challenge for alternate technologies used to measure VPHP spanned the full range of concentrations encountered during a decontamination procedure, without cross-sensitivity to water vapor. The research completed in this project demonstrates that TDLAS overcomes those limitations. PSI demonstrated the ability to achieve a VPHP detection limit at or below 2 ppm, with no cross-sensitivity to water, and TDLAS provides more than four orders-of-magnitude linear response above the detection limit. PSI also demonstrated, via a conceptual design, the feasibility of achieving these measurements in a sensor package that meets the ergonomic and economic user requirements. Thus, both the technical and economic feasibility of developing and commercializing the sensor were demonstrated, thereby achieving the Phase I goals.

This research has possible applications in several industries. Potential customers in the building decontamination sector include both equipment manufacturers and service providers. In the pharmaceutical manufacturing and medical device sterilization markets, the sensor could be used for improved control of barrier isolators, which are widely used to keep biological particles away from pharmaceutical products or, conversely, prevent biological particles from escaping into the atmosphere. In the pharmaceutical manufacturing market alone, this sensor will improve the isolator monitoring and allow fewer opportunities for microbial contamination during processing formulations, and offer improved drug quality, efficacy, availability, and lower manufacturing costs because of reduced waste.

Supplemental Keywords:

SBIR, small business, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide, VPHP, hydrogen peroxide monitor, Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy, TDLAS, wavelength modulation spectroscopy, building decontamination, sterilization, terrorism, homeland security, hazardous biological materials, field monitor, portable gas-sensing platform, decontamination methodologies,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Engineering, decontamination, homeland security, biowarfare defense, field portable, biotechnology, environmental exposure

SBIR Phase II:

Field Rugged, Portable H2O2 Monitor  | Final Report