Membrane Preconcentrator for Portable Trace VOC Detectors

EPA Contract Number: EPD07085
Title: Membrane Preconcentrator for Portable Trace VOC Detectors
Investigators: Lin, Haiqing
Small Business: Membrane Technology and Research Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: May 1, 2007 through April 30, 2009
Project Amount: $224,908
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2007) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Waste , Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


A volatile organic compound (VOC) detection system that is portable, sensitive to the low-ppb level, and able to provide reliable measurements in real time is needed for environmental compliance monitoring and process control in chemical plants. Recently, hand-held and battery-powered ppb-level VOC photoionization detectors (PID) have become commercially available. However, the presence of water in the sample air interferes with the detection accuracy in PIDs.

This project describes the development of a membrane device to remove water vapor from the gas being sent to portable PID-based VOC detectors. The membrane uses a perfluoro polymer that is water-permeable and VOC-rejecting. The membrane device is compact, lightweight and energy efficient, which makes it convenient to integrate into a portable detection system.

To reduce water relative humidity in the air from 100 percent to 10 percent while sending 200 mL/min gas to the detector, a membrane with an area of 0.1 m2 is required. In the Phase I project, membranes with the required permeance and selectivity were prepared and made into bench-scale modules with various configurations and the required membrane area of 0.1 m2. These modules were evaluated for nitrogen/toluene separation, and the configuration was optimized to achieve better separation performance. In addition to removing water from the air, these modules have been demonstrated to enrich VOC content by 10- to 100-fold in the gas sent to the detector.

In Phase II, we will optimize module configurations using more innovative designs for improved water removal performance, and construct a prototype membrane device to deliver to our business partner, RAE Systems, Inc., for testing and evaluation. Integrating such a membrane device with a hand-held ppb-level, VOC detector, such as the ppbRAE Plus detector made by RAE Systems, only adds 30-40 percent by volume and 100 percent by weight, which would provide an easily portable system with much improved performance.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, VOC, volatile organic compound, environmental monitoring, air quality monitoring, contaminated site monitoring, water removal, portable VOC detector,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Chemicals, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Monitoring, toluene detection, chemical processing plants, environmental chemistry, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), nitrogen detection

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • SBIR Phase I:

    A Membrane Preconcentrator for Portable Trace VOC Detectors  | Final Report