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Technology Transfer

Berkeley Lab Miniaturized Sensor

Identifying and directly quantifying airborne particulate matter (PM) is important for understanding adverse health effects resulting from human exposure to aerosols; until now, available techniques and instrumentation have been complex and expensive.

Michael Apte, a scientist in the Environmental Energy Technology Division's Indoor Environment Department, along with other researchers at Berkeley Lab and the University of California at Berkeley, have developed the first low-cost, miniature devices for measuring the properties of airborne PM.

Image of Miniature sensor

The new miniature PM sensors on chips are the first PM analysis systems that are small, quiet, and affordable enough to enable population-based exposure assessment for large-scale studies on the health effects of PM such as secondhand smoke, diesel exhaust, or wood smoke. They are ideal for mailing to survey respondents, and, unlike other particulate matter analysis equipment, they can be easily deployed by a study participant for on-person or in-home monitoring.

The Berkeley Lab sensors can also be used for advanced industrial hygiene and process control and to monitor occupational settings, industrial and environmental pollution, and ventilation systems. The devices can replace currently used particle number counters and might also be developed into products like smart respirators, mass sensors for bioassay arrays, asthma warning devices, and stack emissions monitors.

Unlike other monitoring systems, the Berkeley Lab devices simultaneously measure the mass, size distribution, and optical properties of PM. They require less than 100 milliwatts (mW) of power and provide data consistent with the federal reference method for PM 2.5 and PM 10 analysis.

The Berkeley Lab PM monitors can be as small as 2 to 3 cubic centimeters if constructed without optical identification components and can be made inexpensively; one prototype was constructed from materials costing only $100. Because of the very low cost of materials, once scale-up has been achieved, this sensor-on-a-chip will cost significantly less to produce than the lowest-priced devices on the market today, which are more than two orders of magnitude larger.

The miniaturized sensor is available for licensing or collaborative research. Contact Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Technology Transfer Department at http://www.lbl.gov/Tech-Transfer/.

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