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Portable Particulate Detection Device

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An early warning system for detecting asbestos

EU researchers have developed a prototype of a handheld system to detect the presence of airborne asbestos particles. With this device, construction workers will be able to discover the presence of asbestos more quickly and thus protect themselves accordingly.

Digital Economy

Asbestos fibres are a major cause of disability and death in the construction and related industries. However, until now, identifying an unknown fibre as asbestos has not been a simple procedure. Currently, there are no rapid, accurate methods for determining whether asbestos is present in an industrial environment. Therefore, identifying asbestos particles and analysing them at construction sites was the goal of the EU-funded 'Portable particulate detection device' (PORPARDET) project. The optical properties of asbestos fibres were utilised in order to sense and thus warn of their presence. In the next step, the device detector analysed the optical pattern generated under polarised light conditions so as to indicate the presence of specific complex chemistry asbestos fibres, such as blue asbestos. PORPARDET has developed two portable automatic detection systems. These innovative devices are based on novel methods for concentrating and analysing asbestos particles. One system is a wearable device incorporating an immediate alarm; the second is a bench-top system able to provide rapid on-site quantitative analysis. Both systems are able to record exposure over time. The two PORPARDET prototypes have been successfully manufactured and the detection system — which was used for both — has been verified. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen technical challenges, project delays meant that the final quantification trials for both systems could not be carried out. Therefore, further work is required on the devices produced by the now completed PORPARDET. Once this development work has been achieved, the new devices can be commercialised and the tasks of workers exposed to asbestos made safer.

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