CORDIS - EU research results

HAZEL: Commercialization of a novel, high efficiency equipment for the determination of hazardous atmospheric pollutants

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HAZEL (HAZEL: Commercialization of a novel, high efficiency equipment for the determination of hazardous atmospheric pollutants)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

The monitoring and control of atmospheric pollutants is a subject of prime importance worldwide. Recent evidence from the World Health Organization indicates that about one out of eight deaths occurred in the world are actually due to air pollution: “In new estimates released, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.” In order to tackle this problem, governments worldwide are undertaking to measure the concentration in air of a series of pre-defined pollutants and to compare them to their maximum tolerable levels. There is also a growing research community worldwide aiming at a better understanding of air pollution processes.
During the last decades, concern is growing on a range of specific pollutants that are present at extremely low concentrations in environmental air (at sub-trace, i.e. ≤1 ng/m3 levels) but that nonetheless present long residence times in the eco-system and are highly harmful for humans. Among them, the “toxic organic micro-pollutants” (TOMPs), produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels, is the main example, causing cancer, producing reproductive disorders and serious damage over the immune, nervous and endocrine systems.
For example, according to the European Environmental Agency, from 2008, more than 85% of the European Union urban population (380 million people) is exposed to levels of one sub-trace air pollutant (B(a)P) over the indicative values of the World Health Organization.
Nevertheless, state-of-the-art monitoring of the sub-trace atmospheric pollutants presents serious technical deficiencies, which, in our understanding, are hindering the solution to the problem. Main deficiencies are high analysis costs, long sampling times, and technical staff requirements.
The HAZEL equipment will tackle these disadvantages and deliver remarkable costs reductions (even by a factor of 10), drastically reduced analysis times (minutes vs. days), and automated operation by non-specialized personnel.
Indeed, HAZEL aims for the commercialization, for the first time, of an equipment based in the combination of ion mobility and mass spectroscopy (IMS/MS) for environmental air monitoring. It is planned that its unique advantages will attract new user customers to the business and mobilize old ones to switch to HAZEL technology. An important market is thus available, with a huge income potential.
In HAZEL Phase 1) a feasibility study of the proposed business project has been accomplished from a wide perspective, including technical, market, business and legal aspects.
As far as the technical studies are concerned, the currently available equipment was applied for a thorough series of tests, with the target of determining the optimum operative parameters enabling a separation of the different isomer pollutants.
In regard to business aspects, an in-depth market research and analysis was made to assess the different market segments, enable the optimum marketing and business strategies for all of them and define overall business plans and figures.
Finally, as far as legal issues are concerned, a review was made on the different standards and norms in place in the targeted market countries, especially for the compounds of maximum interest, including the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and dioxins/furans.
As main outcome of this Phase 1) study it was decided to follow up for the project with Phase 2) (development of the equipment up to commercialization stage).
HAZEL is conceived to achieve a huge impact from a broad perspective. It does not only deal with scientific or technological aspects but goes far beyond issuing a truly effective technology for the monitoring and the control of a range of atmospheric pollutants which are extremely harmful for humans at trace and sub-trace levels.
As far as technological development is concerned, HAZEL’s DMA (Differential Mobility Analysis) –MS (Mass spectrometry) technique constitutes a significant step vs. the traditional methods based upon chromatography, which are normally faced with rather complex, highly interlinked physico-chemical phenomena. As an alternative, DMA as a separation method is based exclusively in the application of solely two physical fields, flow and electric, enabling quick analysis, high degree of automation and no need of highly specialized personnel.
Furthermore, the extremely low limits of detection of the proposed technique, allows a significant reduction of sampling times vs. the traditional techniques, which in turn implies less deterioration of the sample during the process.
Owing to its unique advantages in terms of reliability and low resource consumption, DMA-MS can be used for a multitude of applications around toxic organic micro-pollutants of great social interest, such as for instance: analysis of dispersion of dioxins and furans around major sources (for instance municipal waste incinerator); study of the dispersion of critical polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g. B(a)P) around a congested traffic road within a city; evaluation of traffic and mobility policies in highly polluted cities; analysis of dispersion of dangerous pesticides due to drift in the vicinity of harvests, etc.
Block Diagram of SEADM's mesurement technology including the basic stages of sampling and analysis