Workers are exposed every day to various hazardous volatile organic/inorganic compounds (VOCs/VICs) that can affect their safety and long-term health. Gas chromatography (GC) has long been considered to be the most promising and most commonly used method to analyze various VOCs/VICs. However, bench-top GC instruments are bulky and are usually placed in centralized labs, and thus cannot be field-deployable. Meanwhile, existing portable GC and micro-GC (GC) on the market have limited peak capacity, handle only a small, well-defined set of chemicals, and often fail when encountering complex VOCs/VICs that can be seen in a workplace. Consequently, there is an urgent need for a device capable of rapidly and sensitively analyzing a large number of VOCs/VICs while maintaining portability and being cost-effective. The goal of the proposed project is to develop a low-cost high-performance portable automated GC device based on a novel 3- dimensional (3-D) GC design and highly sensitive high-speed vapor sensors. It can perform rapid (<20 min), sensitive (ppt), and in-situ analysis of hundreds of workplace VOCs/VICs for worker exposure assessment. In the proposed project, a complete fully automated 3-D GC device will be developed and built on a chip, which will include pre-concentrators, thermal injector, micro-separation columns, flow controls, and vapor detectors. Over 100 VOCs/VICs representing various workplace exposures will be used as model systems to characterize and evaluate the performance of the device. A corresponding VOC/VIC reference library will be created for those compounds. Finally, the device, in conjunction with the pre-built VOC/VIC library, will be used to quantitatively analyze VOCs/VICs in an experimental workplace environment, as well as in real-world indoor workplace and outdoor industrial or post-industrial environments. The performance will be benchmarked against conventional industrial hygiene methods. In this 3.5-year project, we will accomplish the following five specific aims:
Aim 1 : Design, micro-fabricate, characterize, and optimize the components for 3-D GC devices.
Aim 2 : Assemble the 3-D GC device and develop the operation/analysis algorithm.
Aim 3 : Integrate an automated VIC detection module.
Aim 4 : Characterize and optimize the 3-D GC device, and create a VOC/VIC reference library.
Aim 5 : Field-test the 3-D GC device and benchmark against conventional industrial hygiene methods. The proposed project addresses one of the NIOSH cross-sectors - ?EXPOSURE ASSESSMENT? ? by developing a new analytical device to better evaluate worker exposures to hazardous VOCs/VICs. The intermediate outcomes will include journal articles, citations in the literature, inventions and patents, and adoption of technologies developed in the project. The end outcomes will be a reduction in workplace hazardous exposures and related illnesses.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed project is aimed at developing a low-cost broad-spectrum vapor analyzer that can carry out automated, rapid, sensitive, and on-site analysis of hundreds of workplace hazardous volatile chemical compounds that affect workers' safety and health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Research Project (R01)
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Safety and Occupational Health Study Section (SOH)
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Karr, Joan
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Biomedical Engineering
Biomed Engr/Col Engr/Engr Sta
Ann Arbor
United States
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