Portable Analytical Instrument for Monitoring of Volatile Organic Compound in Complex Backgrounds

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0017
Title: Portable Analytical Instrument for Monitoring of Volatile Organic Compound in Complex Backgrounds
Investigators: Viugina, Elena
Small Business: Adelphi Technology, LLC.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Air Monitoring and Remote Sensing , SBIR - Air Quality , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The proposed device is a compact, portable, and robust battery-powered analytical instrument for monitoring of ultra-low concentrations of various VOCs in complex backgrounds. Our technology is based on principles of analytical gas chromatography (GC), utilizes scrubbed ambient air as carrier gas and a novel highly integrated multisensory platform as a detector. Due to the implementation of a multisensory detector, the device is collecting multiple chromatograms in a single run. The sensors in the integrated MEMS platform possess very distinct catalytic properties. Hence, the time separation by chromatographic column is complemented by catalytic separation by a multisensory detector. The outcome of this GC/MEMS hybrid technology, is the ability to monitor a very broad range of analytes from light to heavy on a relatively short and compact GC column in a short period of time of 12.5 min. Also, the device can perform the analysis in a broad range of concentrations from sub-ppb to hundreds of ppm.

Traditionally, in the industrial setting, compact personal monitors and leak detectors are used. Leak detectors have multiple drawbacks, such as cross-sensitivity between the sensors and inability to work in complex chemical backgrounds. Leak detectors can never provide a user with a comprehensive picture of VOC sample, such as partial concentrations of BTEX compounds at ppb levels in the mix. Conventional laboratory gas chromatographs (GCs) can provide a comprehensive analysis of complex VOC samples, but are not suitable for monitoring of VOCs in the field due to their bulky size, heavy weight, special carrier gases requirement and high maintenance. Another difficulty of implementing conventional GCs in the field conditions is related to the limited capabilities of these instruments to perform in a continuous regime of one cycle of analysis every 20 min. Continuous monitoring is especially important for monitoring of VOCs in metropolitan areas, since the concentration of volatile pollutants in the air may vary by orders of magnitude during the day mainly due to the traffic. Typically, conventional gas chromatographs fail to operate at this capacity.

The proposed portable device has the advantage of providing lab-quality analysis instantly in the field, has high environmental tolerance to temperature, humidity, and contamination and suitable for industrial and non-industrial applications. The expected retail price for the device is between $5,000 and $7,000. It is slightly exceeding the cost of high-end leak detectors, but orders of magnitude lower, than the cost of conventional chromatographs.