This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will address the need for a trace trichloroethylene (TCE) vapor sensor. TCE is a toxic volatile organic compound (VOC) used as an industrial solvent. TCE is a common soil contaminant at industrial toxic waste sites, and it migrates through the soil away from the original contamination site. TCE vapor intrusion into buildings from contaminated soil concentrates the TCE vapor indoors, where it poses a health risk to the occupants. Currently, TCE is monitored by capturing it with chemically active materials, and then analyzing those materials in a laboratory;the measurement interval is hours or days. A real-time monitor with a measurement interval of minutes would enable real- time mapping of the TCE concentration within a building, to locate vapor intrusion points of ingress and to monitor the quantity of TCE entering the building. The mapping distinguishes TCE entering the building from indoor sources of TCE. Entanglement Technologies proposes to determine the feasibility of developing a TCE vapor sensor based on the combination of cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) and diffusion time-of-flight (DiTOF) incorporating stationary phases (as in gas chromatography). CRDS provides extremely sensitive detection while diffusion with stationary phase provides specificity. The research objective for phase I is to demonstrate selective TCE vapor detection in air in the presence of other VOCs and atmospheric components (such as carbon dioxide and water vapor). The project will comprise building a table-top CRDS/DiTOF prototype gas analyzer to test with TCE and other VOCs. The anticipated TCE sensitivity is 20 parts per trillion by volume in a measurement time of approximately 10 minutes, surpassing existing technologies. The long term objective of this project is to develop a portable TCE vapor analyzer as a commercial product with a 10 pptv sensitivity. An additional objective is to adapt the same basic analyzer design resulting from this project to many different trace gases, including atmospheric and indoor-air pollutants, and combinations of trace gases. Such a family of analyzers will impact pollution research, control, and mitigation as much as CRDS carbon dioxide, methane, and water analyzers are currently impacting the study of greenhouse gases and climate change. As a long term objective, CRDS/DiTOF technology will be applied to biomedical science, industrial process monitoring, environmental remediation and explosives detection. For example, the diffusion-based selectivity will prove critical to the separation and quantification of the many hydrocarbon gas components in human breath useful for non-invasive diagnosis of disease. Similarly, CRDS/DiTOF can enable sensitive chemical analysis of liquids such as blood.

Public Health Relevance

This Small Business Innovation Research project will address the need for a real-time, trace trichloroethylene vapor sensor to replace or supplement time-integrating sensors. Trichloroethylene, a toxic volatile organic compound, is a common soil contaminant at industrial toxic waste sites, and trichloroethylene vapor intrudes into buildings where it poses a health risk to the occupants. A real-time trichloroethylene sensor would enable mapping of the vapor concentration within a building to locate vapor intrusion points of ingress so that they may be sealed.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IMST-S (12))
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Henry, Heather F
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Entanglement Technologies, Inc.
United States
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