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Agiltron, Inc.

Superfund Research Program

Portable SERS Detector for Simultaneous Detection of Trace-level Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons on Superfund Sites

Project Leader: Wayne Weimer
Grant Number: R43ES022884
Funding Period: Phase I: April 2015 - November 2015
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Many of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been identified as the highly toxic pollutants. PAH contamination has made surrounding people and animals suffer from exposure by air, water, and soil. Remediation of Superfund sites requires on-site discrimination, detection, and monitoring of PAHs. Detection of trace levels of PAHs are usually performed by legacy laboratory analytical techniques, which are bulky, expensive, time consuming, or often requiring complex separation and preconcentration steps.

Based on successful commercialization of portable Raman instruments and experience in ultrasensitive chemical detection based on surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), Agiltron is developing a robust portable microfluidic SERS detector and the methodology for field analysis of PAHs in liquid media at Superfund sites. In Phase I, the researchers are fabricating and optimizing PAHs SERS sensor chips by chemically modifying their proprietary high-performance AgNF SERS chips with various partition layers. An optimized SERS chip is being integrated into a flow cell and tested on their PinPointerTM Raman spectrometer. In the next phase of the project, they plan to refine and optimize this detection technology and extend it to study the effects of various factors and elimination of interference. Microfluidic SERS cartridges will be fabricated and a field-portable Raman prototype will be built for field tests at Superfund sites.

The SERS detector being developed provides a unique solution to distinguish and quantify trace levels of PAHs under ambient conditions with no need for extra preconcentration and separation. It is ultrasensitive, extremely simple, and highly reliable, and allows relatively unskilled personnel to accomplish on site PAH testing, affording a cost-effective monitoring tool for assessment, remediation and management of Superfund sites and other contaminated sources. The broad markets for this proposed device include, but are not limited to, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contractors, testing, and research laboratories, state and municipal water authorities, and environmental remediation companies.

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