lab-on-a-chip technology that measures trace amounts of air
contaminants in homes was successfully field-tested by researchers at
the University of Michigan.
in the presence of 50 other indoor air contaminants, the U-M-built
microsystem found levels of the targeted contaminant so low that it
would be analogous to finding a particular silver dollar in a roll
stretching from Detroit to Salt Lake City.
is the first (known) study of its kind,” said Ted Zellers, professor in
the U-M School of Public Health and the Department of Chemistry, and
lab-on-a-chip technologies are used for biomedical analysis of
liquids,” Zellers said. “Our technology is designed for monitoring
contaminants in the air, and this groundbreaking study is the first to
prove that it can work outside the laboratory in real-life
applications are potentially limitless because the device, called a
microfabricated gas chromatograph, can be tailored to detect any
contaminants, Zellers said. For instance, the team is adapting the same
technology to detect certain industrial chemicals in the breath and
saliva of exposed workers, biomarkers of cancer and other chronic
disease, and markers of explosives for airport screening applications.
Department of Defense contracted the U-M team to adapt and test two
prototypes devices in homes near Utah’s Hill Air Force Base to measure
indoor concentrations of trichloroethylene, or TCE. TCE was used on
military bases until the 1970s, and improper disposal caused TCE to
become a pervasive groundwater contaminant that can seep into homes
core microfabricated silicon chips, when stacked, are roughly the size
of a wristwatch,” Zellers said. They require less power and can be made
smaller and less expensively than traditionally manufactured
microsystem was designed and built by faculty and students affiliated
with the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSensing and Systems in the
College of Engineering.
Zellers said the group is currently negotiating with several companies interested in commercializing the technology.
series of articles describing the results appeared in Environmental Science & Technology. Coauthors include Sun
Kyu Kim, Hungwei Chang, and Jonathan Bryant-Genevier of U-M; David
Burris of IST Inc.; and Kyle Gorder and Erik Dettenmeier of Hill Air