Specialized polymer used to detect nerve agents, toxic chemicals for air monitoring in emergencies

April 15, 2009,

Emergency personnel test handheld chemical detectors that use the BSP3 polymer to determine if nerve agents are in the air. Sensors with a BSP3 coating can be used to monitor air quality in subways and buildings, and also to protect first responders at terrorist or chemical incidents.
(PhysOrg.com) -- A unique polymer that allows sensors to detect nerve agents and other toxic industrial chemicals in the air is now available to companies developing chemical detectors for emergency personnel, indoor air quality monitoring and other uses.

Researchers can now access a hybrid organic-inorganic known as BSP3 through Seacoast Science, Inc., thanks to a license agreement between Seacoast and Battelle, which operates the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. PNNL developed and patented the polymer and then partnered with Seacoast as part of the lab's mission to transfer technology to the marketplace.

Seacoast has added BSP3 to its catalog of more than 100 polymers, which researchers use to cover the surface of a sensor. Polymer coatings collect and concentrate the vapor molecules of airborne chemicals. Absorbing the vapor molecules creates changes in the polymer's properties, which results in sensor signal changes.

Multiple sensors, each covered with a different polymer especially sensitive to a specific class of compounds, are used together as a sensor array. The collective response of a sensor array provides a "fingerprint," or characteristic pattern, that helps researchers recognize and distinguish one chemical compound from another. Sensor arrays with polymer coatings are often called "electronic noses" because they recognize response patterns from multiple sensors, just as mammalian noses recognize response patterns from several olfactory receptors.

BSP3 has a strong ability to absorb toxic organophosphorous compounds like nerve agents and pesticides. Using BSP3 in sensor arrays improves sensor abilities to distinguish one compound from another. Sensors with a BSP3 coating can be used to monitor air quality in subways and buildings, and also to protect first responders at terrorist or chemical incidents.

Seacoast also plans to use BSP3 to improve its own product line. Those efforts include exploring how BSP3 may be used to detect explosives by combining the polymer with the company's current sensor platforms. Seacoast will add BSP3 to the company's proprietary preconcentration system, which allows users to detect chemicals at very low concentrations, and its SeaPORT gas chromatography system, which uses a sensor array to separate chemical mixtures and identify component chemicals. The company also wants to improve the ability of its own to detect nerve agents and basic toxic industrial chemicals with BSP3.

PNNL Chemist Jay Grate developed the BSP3 polymer, which received an R&D 100 Award in 2004 and holds U.S. Patent No. 6,015,869. It was created with funding from the National Nuclear Security Administration. The BSP3 license is one of more than 200 active licenses at PNNL. Numerous technologies developed at PNNL have been the basis for start-up companies and new products.

Provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (news : web)

Explore further: Four PNNL Innovative Technologies Honored With the 'Oscars of Technology'

Related Stories

Electronic nose sniffs out false alarms

December 14, 2005

An electronic nose is so sensitive that it can distinguish between cigarette smoke and smoke from an office or factory fire. Developed by a European research consortium the device will help to end the vast number of false ...

A biosensor layered like lasagna

April 28, 2006

In a mixing of pasta metaphors, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists have used electrostatic attraction to layer reactive biological molecules lasagna-like around spaghetti-like carbon nanotubes.

New Gas Sensors Patterned with Conducting Polymer

April 12, 2005

A n improved method for depositing nanoporous, conducting polymer films on miniaturized device features has been demonstrated by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Described in the April ...

MIT's 'electronic nose' could detect hazards

October 31, 2007

A tiny "electronic nose" that MIT researchers have engineered with a novel inkjet printing method could be used to detect hazards including carbon monoxide, harmful industrial solvents and explosives.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 15, 2009
The photosensitive spectrometric devices seems better suited for active environments where minimal operator handling is required.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.