You are here
STTR Phase I: A micro-Thermionic Ionization Source for Chemical Detection
Phone: (505) 999-5880
Phone: (505) 999-5880
Contact: Douglas Adkins
Type: Federally Funded R&D Center (FFRDC)
This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I project will advance the development of new portable gas analysis systems. Portable analysis systems can provide timely information about the surroundings, leading to better decisions in critical situations. For law enforcement, a portable detector based on the proposed technology will enable officers to focus an investigation on specific targets, whether narcotics or explosives. Likewise, for military and civil defense operations, trace explosives can be detected even when the bulk of the material is well concealed. A portable system with the proposed detector will easily be able to identify and quantify chemical warfare agents and pesticides at single part-per-billion levels in complex backgrounds. With precise agent detection at these low levels, the users of these systems will have better information and more time to act on that information. In agriculture, a better detector will lead to a more judicious use of pesticides and thereby increase their effectiveness while reducing human exposure. Considering all of the potential applications, the proposed work could lead to significant advancements in a $600 million segment of the $2 billion annual gas detection market. The intellectual merit of this project is based on the years of work that Sandia National Laboratories and Defiant Technologies have invested in the development of micro components and systems for chemical detection. The proposal objective is to develop a new ionization source that can replace radioactive materials, and other larger and more power hungry thermionic sources. The new thermionic ionization source will use micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) fabrication techniques to form a millimeter-scale heating element that operates efficiently at 600 degrees C. New techniques to formulate and deposit low function work materials on these heaters will be developed and exploited to construct the ionization sources. The research will entail an exploration of alkali metal formulations for the low-work function material, heater fabrication for longevity, and source operating conditions for possible failure mechanisms. At the end of this Phase I effort, the goal is to develop an ionization source that can be coupled with portable gas chromatograph and portable ion mobility systems for the detection and analysis of explosives, chemical warfare agents, pesticides, and narcotics.
* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *