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  • Final Report Summary - BEN-DET (Improved air pollution and worker exposure monitoring and control through the development of a near real time benzene specific gas analysis & measurement instrument)
FP6

BEN-DET Report Summary

Project ID: 508107
Funded under: FP6-SME
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - BEN-DET (Improved air pollution and worker exposure monitoring and control through the development of a near real time benzene specific gas analysis & measurement instrument)

While being state of the art, many of the methods for detecting benzene levels were time consuming and expensive. Many could not be used in potentially explosive situations without endangering lives, thus the negative aspects led to scientific research / development into other techniques, but specifically into making technologies portable, hand held and cost effective.

The objective of the project was to develop a hand-held, benzene specific, integrated measurement instrument based on a state of the art PID detector in combination with novel/innovative inert polymer-based micro, pre-concentrator and GC column. The micro GC column would be capable of selection and separation of benzene from other similar species hydrocarbons. The system would also include an intrinsically safe GPS tracking and telecommunications module, along with the required pneumatic and electrical / electronic circuitry and an intrinsically safe rechargeable battery power source.

This proposal aimed to improve the quality of life of all EU citizens through the advances in the control of benzene emissions which depend upon accurate detection and recording of emission levels in real time with mobile communication technology to ensure greater health, safety and ethics.

The technical work over the reporting period (1 July 2004 – 31 December 2007) was spread over the tasks in five work packages:
- WP 1: Extend S&T knowledge of materials science and heating technology
- WP 2: Proof of principle of resistive element heated gas chromatograph
- WP 3: Proof of principle of micro capillary tube manufacture
- WP 4: Production and testing of proof of principle pneumatic circuit, micro injector valve, activated carbon filter, telemetry module and antennas, PID sensor and power requirements and specification of rechargeable battery
- WP 5: Integration of individual elements to produce prototype benzene specific analysis and measurement instrument.

Several polymers were investigated for suitability as a moulding grade with high flow to mould 200 µm features and a film suitable for hot embossing.

A thermal model of the heater system using thin film heater technology was defined. The resistance required for the copper foil was calculated and a lab based model trialled. Using hot copper foil embossing (MID) technology successful trials were carried out using 50 µm copper foil on samples of the selected polymer films. A cost efficient method to measuring the temperature without using temperature sensors and additional circuitry was developed by Ion Science.

Initial chromatography trials from SRA were carried out using different columns and Ion Science's modified prototype PID. The results showed excellent analytical data; however, there were concerns regarding achieving those temperatures and flows in the BEN-DET device.

A polymer column design was developed using fine moulded features on CAD following the column characteristics researched from Ion Science. Taking the best theoretical design as a basis the column layout was designed to give the best possible packing efficiency while also being possible to tool and manufacture. A CAD model was successfully developed of the mould tool insert and the tool was produced using spark erode technique.

The concept design for the telemetry module was being developed around a 16 bit processor for control. Trials using Sarantels GeoHelix GPS antenna and Wifi / Bluetooth antennas demonstrated excellent performance when combining a GPS system and a Wifi / Bluetooth communication device into a compact device.

Experiments at Ion Science with a short (some cm) commercially available packed column (stationary phase: TCEP on Chromosorb PAW) showed a good chromatographic separation of benzene and toluene at ambient temperatures.

New low flow valves were made using a clean room fabrication process based on silicon micro machining by wet chemical deep etching (KOH) as well as reactive ion etching (RIE) and silicon fusion bonding.

A micro GC column was developed using the stainless steel tube which was preformed into a spiral pattern and over moulded with the thermoplastic compound using a prototype mould tool.

An activated carbon filter has been designed to enable any type of activated carbon which is an ideal material to scrub air for use as a carrier gas in packed column gas chromatography.

A pneumatic assembly which also integrates the prototype micro GC column, active carbon filter and PID sensor was designed and prototyped.

The control system was developed which would be a fully integrated prototype capable of controlling all the critical elements of the instrument and operate the device during the validation trials.

Initial field trials were carried out at Shell Pernis / Moerdijk using the BEN-DET: first prototype to test the initial proof of principle. These results provided much important data and good results. The next prototype would include the new mini PID sensor and prototype pneumatic components which would be included in the BEN-DET device.

The development of a concept symmetrical case design was completed that is small and light, able to be easily held with either the left or right hand or worn in a top pocket, which may use a joystick with soft menu functionality with space for warning LED's and sounders. The device would last for at least 10hrs, to satisfy SHELL's requirement and would include the largest acceptable display. A SLA rapid prototype model was produced to assemble the individual elements of the system and the detector was successfully evaluated.

A PID detector was designed that has a large signal to noise ratio in a clean and stable environment. The minimum and maximum flow requirements were determined through the detector to achieve the best possible signal to noise ratio. The design was fully compliant with the European ATEX safety standards for instruments to be used within hazardous gaseous environments.

The development of a hand-held, benzene specific, integrated measurement instrument based on a state of the art PID detector in combination with novel / innovative inert polymer-based micro, pre-concentrator and GC column, had the following advantages:
- The micro GC column would be capable of selection and separation of benzene from other similar species hydrocarbons.
- An intrinsically safe GPS tracking and telecommunications module that could automatically record and encrypt the exact latitude and longitude of the sampling location using assisted GPS.
- Pneumatic and electrical / electronic circuitry and an intrinsically safe rechargeable battery power source.

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