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Market introduction of a revolutionary lab-on-a-chip Micro-Gas-Chromatograph for a cost-effective management of natural gas

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PICOGC (Market introduction of a revolutionary lab-on-a-chip Micro-Gas-Chromatograph for a cost-effective management of natural gas)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-02-29

Natural Gas (NG) industry is worldwide demanding for accurate and cost-efficient technology to control internal processes along the supply chain. Analytical devices for gas chromatography (GC) are required to ensure the standards enforced by regulators. This industry is moving towards the use of MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) for process control, as these microchips can integrate miniaturized laboratory functions using extremely small fluid volumes, thus increasing accuracy while reducing energy consumption and analysis time.
Pollution has completed the first MEMS-based microGC able to obtain the best analytical performances of the market. This technology, named picoGC, is capable to face current limitations in microGC performances and manufacturing process. For example, picoGC increases sensitivity and linearity in analysis compared to current microGC and is able to perform standardized measurements in less time at a lower price. In addition, picoGC manufacturing process will be more automated and compatible with current processing technologies.
Pollution has partnered with Micronit GmbH for the future MEMS mass production, which are integrated by Pollution and commercialized as a single and robust analytical device. During this project, a complete MEMS microGC has been integrated, tested and validated. And now, Pollution is launching into the market a range of MicroGC analysers for NG analysis for these applications: control of odorants, analysis of gas composition and measurement of the heating value of NG.
The modularity of the analytical layout of picoGC systems has allowed to update the initial project roadmap and to develop additionally a picoGC version exclusive for a new market application: anesthetic gases in operating rooms. This goal represents the success of the project being one of the objectives of this new analytical platform, an extremely high flexible product which allows the development of dedicated units for every single market application.
"The main objectives during the first half of the project were related to the definition and development of the analytical layout of picoGC technology for the different industrial applications. Moreover, the first batch of MEMS devices was produced and a new testing system fully MEMS-based was completed to test different configurations. The technological transfer from laboratory to industry facilities was also successfully accomplished. Regarding commercialization and dissemination activities, the first obtained results were presented in national and international events, awaking much interest among potential final customers.
During the second half of the project, a new market application allowed Pollution to review the initial project plan: the development of a picoGC unit to measure the anesthetic gases in the operating rooms. This fact, together with some technical on-going developments to complete the foreseen ""sandwich"" configuration, and considering the efforts to complete all the planned activities to reduce the time-to-market, allowed Pollution to split the realization of the picoGC units in two separate development phases:
- picoGC PHASE A: with the whole analytical core based on MEMS technology and with the possibility to use also traditional columns
- picoGC PHASE B, with all MEMS devices integrated in the ""sandwich"" configuration
The first picoGC instruments include the PHASE A configuration. The exclusive internal layout and design of the PHASE A picoGC units gives the possibility to use not only traditional columns but also MEMS columns in a unique modular configuration. This innovative solution allows the final customer to use both traditional and MEMS columns in a single analytical module.
In the last months of the project, both laboratory and in-field tests have been completed getting impressive analytical results, not only for the anesthetic gases but also for the NG applications. For instance, for anesthetic gases, outstanding repeatability results have been obtained, reaching RSD% lower than 0.2%, being this one of the most important results of the project. In addition, the analysis time is reduced down to 75s, improving the initial expectations. This means that picoGC technology is faster than any other competitor for this application (35%-40%).
Regarding exploitation and dissemination, the aim for the entire duration of the project has been to ensure awareness and relevance on key clients and industrial big market players and to attract external investments. Therefore and important effort has been devoted to this aspect of the project using several communication channels: company and project website, participation to relevant workshops, organization of regular project meetings, participation to national and international fairs, and presentation of the most prominent results in international scientific congresses."
The best value of picoGC is its high performance in analysis at the lowest cost. PicoGC is becoming a revolutionary “lab-on-a-chip” with multiple applications for several industrial sectors. The new technology is based on a cost-effective production process and will offer the following key benefits:
- Best performances in target market due to the lower dead volumes: increased sensitivity and linearity thanks to the high-performance columns and excellent overall engineering
- Reduced production costs due to the uniqueness of having columns in MEMS: manufacturing being more automated and optimized, reducing components and labour force
- Reduced cost-of-ownership due to minor power/gas use (lower temperatures and volumes of carrier gases), energy consumption, and carrier gas consumption (it stays remotely functioning for longer without maintenance)
- Analysis times reduced due to the thinner and shorter column and exclusive injector layout
- On-site analyses in harsh places will be possible, minimizing the times for sample transfer, process times and plant operating costs
PicoGC technology can have different market applications depending on its final configuration. PicoGC is a product with minimal error in analysis and very competitive in prices. Using picoGC for continuous monitoring will give the operator a much better remote control to optimize the odorant distribution system in real-time. Furthermore, gas pipelines operators will be able to use the results of internal control for the mandatory reporting, as picoGC will comply with ISO and EN standards. In addition, distribution and transmission companies will reduce operational costs, as visits and transport to perform standardized measurements will not be necessary, and also because unjustified ‘calls for smell’ will be eliminated (citizens will not perceive excessive odour) avoiding unnecessary inspections.
The Consortium between Pollution and Micronit enacts the productive capacity required to meet with the targeted volumes and qualities. The flexibility offered by Micronit is a clear added value for Pollution, as they can, modulate required silicon wafers production according to the market demand.
In addition, picoGC technology represents a unique opportunity for the monitoring of the anesthetic gases in the operating rooms. The excellent sensitivity and the fast analysis times will allow, with a single instrument, to monitor in less time and with a high accuracy the amount of these gases which might represent a serious risks for the health workers.
Pittcon conference_Dissemination results
PICOGC analytical modules
PICOGC prototype
PICOGC pre-series
WGC'18_Dissemination results