Superfund Research Program
Unattended Vapor Intrusion Monitor
Project Leader: Sanjay V. Patel
Grant Number: R43ES020634
Funding Period: Phase I: April 2012 – September 2012
The US EPA estimates there are over 450,000 contaminated sites in the US. The cost to perform measurements stems primarily from the labor involved in placing and replacing the passive sorbent tubes used to collect vapor samples. Analysis of these $150 tubes costs up to $350 per sample, which can add up to over $8000 annually when considering that multiple tubes must be used per site. Sanjay Patel is developing a solution to provide continuous monitoring using a proprietary sensor and sampling system. This Vapor Intrusion Monitor (VIM) combines low-cost detectors, a trap-and-purge collector and chromatography to (1) continuously collect and analyze the air in its immediate environment, (2) provide wireless data transmission to a network for remediation specialists to use in tracking models, and (3) allow for an automated, reusable, low-maintenance system that does not need a trained operator to collect samples. Patel’s overall objectives are to:
- develop sensor and preconcentrator materials sensitive to chemicals commonly found in brownfields (e.g. trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and benzene);
- Demonstrate the detection of these chemicals below EPA reference exposure levels (REL); and
- Demonstrate that these the multisensory systems can be automated and repeatedly detect these chemicals from a simulated environment.
Patel’s project addresses the need for better systems to monitor vapor intrusion into homes and facilities that neighbor brownfields and Superfund sites. The system is inexpensive compared to common laboratory equipment, is portable for easy setup, and will not require compressed gases to operate, making it safe to leave unattended. The VIM will be sold directly to remediation specialists and government agencies for use in their research and remediation programs. At under $5000, the system’s ability to provide continuous data allows for a much lower cost per sample than the traditional means of sample collection. At this price point, and considering the number of contaminated sites, if the VIM is used at 0.1% of the brownfield sites in the US, this is >$20 million opportunity. This project will result in the design of a portable system that is free from the constraints of bottled carrier gas, which are required for all commercial gas chromatographs. This will make the system accessible to the multi-billion dollar remediation market and other industrial markets for process monitoring, waste water treatment, leak detection around storage tanks, and regulatory compliance.