Final Report: Microelectrochmical Capillary System for Environmental Analytical Lab on a Chip

EPA Contract Number: EPD12036
Title: Microelectrochmical Capillary System for Environmental Analytical Lab on a Chip
Investigators: Vaidya, Bikas
Small Business: Lynntech Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2014
Project Amount: $299,999
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2012) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Nanotechnology , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


As part of its mission to protect human health and the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is dedicated to developing and promoting innovative cleanup strategies that restore contaminated sites to productive use, reduce associated costs, and promote environmental stewardship. In adopting this strategy, however, there will be an increasing need to implement a more cost-effective, long-term monitoring strategy for all remediation sites, as well as for the surrounding areas, which have not been addressed adequately by the current state-of-the-art monitoring technologies. To address the problem, Lynntech is developing a new, automated field deployable laboratory with the ability to analyze both organic pollutants and metal contaminants in environmental samples simultaneously. The key component of the system is an integrated multichannel device that uses electrochemical pre-concentration and stripping voltammetric analysis for the determination of metals, and a solid phase, extraction-based preconcentrator/injector connected directly to a micro capillary electrochemical-driven device that uses electrokinetic-induced, electro-osmotic flow for organic separation and fiber optic detection system for identification. This unit is highly synergistic to many of the complementary processing and analytical microfluidic devices that have been developed by Lynntech for environmental monitoring. These include an electrochemical stripping voltammetric analysis, selective preconcentration and an optical detection system.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

During Lynntech's research efforts, the company has made progress on solutions to many of the challenges that have limited others attempting to develop a portable "laboratory-on-a-chip" device. Lynntech's progress was on the integration of all working components—i.e. injector, columns, interfaces, detector, instrument control, and data process—into a single portable module. During Phase II, three primary successes were achieved on this project. First, the materials and configurations for detection of pollutants were identified. Second, a range of operating parameters for each device in which the detection can be optimized was realized and narrowed. Third, a total system integration understanding was gained that can be used in the future to advance the technology into a true "laboratory-on-a-chip" concept. The research efforts undertaken during this project have laid down a strong foundation to the understanding of issues that still need to be resolved. However, additional work and optimization of experimental parameters is needed to improve the reproducibility in the data analysis of both the metals (mercury, cadmium, lead and chromium) and organic (benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and m-, p-, o-xylene) pollutant detection systems.
For the metals detection system, advances were made in developing several electrode geometries. However, each configuration presented different challenges for repeatability of similar measurements due to electrode failures, electrode coating failures, production of bubbles in the system (randomly changing volumes, concentrations and electrical potentials) and inability to reproduce literature reported results for chromium detection. Although this system was successfully converted to a portable unit in an operable configuration, problems with automated control coding and data analysis procedures kept this system from being fully optimized for the repeatable detection of the metal in the field.
For the organics detection system, advances were made in identifying a perconcentrating membrane and conditions that allowed for detection of benzene, toluene and xylenes. It still requires further development to improve the reproducibility of elution times through the micro-capillary column and separation of ethyl benzene and xylenes.
A Technology Niche Analysis performed in collaboration with an external consulting group, Foresight Science, and further market analysis during the Phase II confirmed that there are few, if any, “"laboratory-on-a-chip" products on the market today that target onsite detection of metals and organic contaminates. The majority of “"laboratory-on-a-chip" products on the market today targets the life science market. The commercialization efforts associated with this project included identifying what the future of onsite instruments could be, and the challenges that exist in achieving the aim of this project. Products on the commercial market today that perform the analysis targeted by this new “"laboratory-on-a-chip" technology are all significantly larger, more costly, and operate in a laboratory. Lynntech believes that its research advanced the technology needed to develop a product as described in its aim of the project and the company is therefore well-positioned to move forward if it can obtain additional funding. Lynntech will continue its efforts to approach different funding sources with an objective to obtain additional funds to further advance the technology in this research project so that it can fulfill the objectives of making a true “"laboratory-on-a-chip" for detection of both organic and inorganic pollutants in water.


During Phase II, Lynntech has developed a semi-automated metal and organic contaminants detection system and demonstrated the feasibility of a low-cost, “Green Remediation” compliant remote monitoring system with the ability to detect both metal and organic contaminants from a mixture. This instrument potentially can provide accurate, inexpensive, easy-to-use and sustainable (green) detection capabilities that can be used by both trained and untrained (community) personnel in a low-technology environment, and will have the ability to run for months or longer without human intervention. This will allow for more rapid hazardous waste site cleanups at a lower cost.

Supplemental Keywords:

remote monitoring, green technology, environmental laboratory, dual detection

SBIR Phase I:

Microelectrochemical Capillary System for Environmental Analytical Lab on a Chip  | Final Report